INDIANAPOLIS — Dallas Clark never took his eyes off the screen as a video tribute played highlights from his time in Indianapolis.
The standout tight end retired from the NFL after 11 seasons Wednesday and when he stepped to the podium at the team’s practice facility, he could hardly keep his composure.
“Obviously you should have showed the video afterward,” Clark said after taking a long pause to gather himself. “My wife told me to keep it lighthearted. I just don’t know how to do that because this place and these fans and everyone here mean so much to me.”
He retired as a member of the Colts, the team that drafted him in the first round in 2003. It’s the place where he won a Super Bowl with Peyton Manning in 2006 and spent the first nine years of his career.
Clark played for Baltimore last season and for Tampa Bay in 2012. He was released by the Colts in 2011 after the team finished 2-14 and missed the playoffs for the first time in 10 years.
Clark signed with Indianapolis just long enough to announce his retirement, though Colts owner Jim Irsay wisecracked that there was no signing bonus this time.
“There’s a lot more meaning behind it than numbers,” Irsay said. “It’s really a great moment when you have a chance to have somebody come back to town.”
Clark is Indianapolis’ all-time leader in tight end touchdown catches (46) and receptions (427). He finished second in yards receiving (4,887) and 100-yard games (seven). Clark set single-season records with the Colts with 100 receptions and 1,106 yards in the 2009 season. In 2007, he had 11 TD catches.
The Colts won at least 12 games for seven consecutive seasons and made eight straight playoff appearances leading up to Clark’s final season in Indianapolis, before his release and the release of other veterans, including Manning.
“You can’t write this, you can’t make this up,” Clark said as he thanked everyone from team doctors and equipment staff, to former Colts coach Tony Dungy and former team President Bill Polian, who drafted him with the Colts’ first-round pick in 2003.
“Nothing but love,” he said to a crowd that included Reggie Wayne, Robert Mathis and Adam Vinatieri. “For us to go do what we do, there’s so many people. I’m not going to stand here and think I did it myself because that would be a boldface lie.”
Wayne was drafted by Indianapolis in 2001 and played alongside Clark each year he was with the Colts.
“From Day One, he came in with a mission and focused in on it and he locked in on it and within that first year, he came in and made some plays, and I knew he was going to be major, major contributor to this offense,” Wayne said. “He was that last piece of the puzzle and without Dallas, I don’t think we win as many games as we did.”
Clark got emotional when thanking the teammates he’s had throughout his career.
“When you have 52 men in the locker room giving everything that they have for one goal, special things happen,” he said. “For us, we won like it was like, that’s what you do. Until I went to other places, it was like, not everyone gets it. Not everyone can do what we did. That’s the reason why it was so special.”