For the better part of a quarter-century as an assistant coach in the NFL, Howard Mudd has preached to his offensive linemen the virtues of teamwork and togetherness.
Over and over Mudd has drilled home the theme of, "all or nothing." With the Indianapolis Colts, as in his previous stops, Mudd has underlined, "Were all in this together."
But even Mudd wasnt prepared for the lengths that Colts running back Edgerrin James and quarterback Peyton Manning would take the all-for-one philosophy.
Or that it would bring Mudd and the entire Colts offensive line to Hawaii today for Pro Bowl week, too.
When James and Manning handed out nine pairs of first-class, round-trip plane tickets complete with hotel accommodations, one set each for Mudd and all the Colts offensive linemen and tight ends, it was an unheard-of generosity even in a league of millionaires.
"It was a magnanimous gesture that went beyond money and said a lot about those two guys," Mudd said. "I was really taken aback and personally very flattered to be included," Mudd said. "It wasnt like I blocked anybody or anything. Even now I dont know what to say."
Last year, James and Manning gave each member of their offensive line a custom-made suit and a camcorder as an end-of-season "thank you" for a job well done.
This year, with James on the way to becoming the NFLs top rusher and Manning its leading passer, they looked for an appropriate way to raise the reward.
Finally, late in the season and their Pro Bowl selection likely, James took Manning aside in the locker room with a suggestion. "If we both went to the Pro Bowl, we wanted to take them along," James said.
"They earned it," Manning said. "They took care of us all season. They opened holes from him and protected me real well, so it was our turn to take care of them."
Indeed, in a 10-6 season James rushed for 1,709 yards and was the leagues total yards leader as well with 2,303. Manning led in passing yards, 4,413 and the Colts matched the New York Jets in allowing the fewest sacks (20).
"The offensive line gets overlooked by a lot of people, but not us," James said. "We know what kind of a job they do. We wanted to find some way to thank them for all they have done for us because we wouldnt be here without them."
Still, James and Manning said, even as two well-heeled superstars, there is a limit to what they can afford to do this week. And that line is drawn at the dining room.
"We can fly them out here and put them up in a hotel but after that theyre on their own," Manning said. "Theyre offensive linemen after all. With the way they can eat, well, theyre on their own when it comes to food this week."