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Two-time Pro Bowl tight end Jack Doyle retires after 9 years with Indianapolis Colts

Joel A. Erickson
Indianapolis Star

INDIANAPOLIS — The perfect teammate has decided it is time to focus on himself and his family.

Jack Doyle is retiring after nine seasons in a Colts uniform.

An Indianapolis product who went undrafted out of Western Kentucky and fought his way onto the roster, Doyle became a quintessential Colt, an emblem of perseverance, hard work and excellence who remained a critical part of the roster all the way to the end.

But the cumulative effects of playing 131 games at one of the NFL’s most grueling positions have taken their toll.

"I have a deep love for the game of football. I took pride in playing the game the right way and always leaving everything I had on the field," Doyle wrote in his retirement statement. "I have a deep respect for the dedication and commitment it takes to be out there for your teammates. At this time, my body is telling me that is a sacrifice I can no longer make."

Said Doyle at the end of the season: “I’ve just been banged up. It’s been tough. Tough on my body, tough on me. It’s tough to play football, and it’s tough to get out there every week.”

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Indianapolis Colts tight end Jack Doyle (84) celebrates a touchdown catch against the Tennessee Titans during the first half of an NFL football game in Indianapolis, Sunday, Dec. 1, 2019.

Doyle’s numbers — 295 receptions (3rd among Colts tight ends, 14th overall), 2,729 yards (5th, 24th), 24 touchdowns (4th, 16th) — firmly place him among the top five tight ends in franchise history, but the raw statistics alone do not tell the full story of Doyle’s impact in Indianapolis.

The big, bearded tight end is one of the ultimate examples of the franchise’s long history of finding diamonds in the rough. Doyle was offered just one FBS scholarship coming out of Cathedral, played his way onto the NFL’s radar at Western Kentucky and then landed with Tennessee as an undrafted free agent in 2013.

When the Titans cut Doyle at the end of his first training camp, Indianapolis claimed him off of waivers, and Doyle spent his first three seasons trying to establish himself in the NFL.

“I got here, and I was battling for roster spots,” Doyle said.

Doyle finally broke out in 2016, catching 59 passes for 584 yards and five touchdowns to earn himself a three-year, $18.9 million contract that put him on a path to finishing his career with the Colts, then followed that up with an 80-catch, 690-yard performance that earned him a spot in the Pro Bowl after the 2017 season. He receive the nod again in 2019.

By the time the current Indianapolis regime arrived in 2018, Doyle had developed into a complete tight end, a perfect chess piece for Frank Reich’s offense.

“Jack is so versatile,” Reich said. “We can move him around. He’s a playmaker in the run game, he’s an excellent blocker. But the thing that I think Jack has made a career of, he continues to fool people in the pass game. … He’s a very good feel route runner on zone coverage, but he also has very good instincts versus man.”

Up until that point, Doyle had been remarkably durable, but he was hit hard by injuries. A hip cost him five games early in 2018, and then he suffered a lacerated kidney in late November that sent him to injured reserve.

Doyle bounced back and played in 47 of a possible 49 games the next three seasons, but the Colts’ ongoing quarterback carousel kept him from ever reaching his former numbers as a receiver, although there were glimpses like the playoff game against Buffalo after the 2020 season and the Tampa Bay game this year.

Indianapolis leaned on Doyle’s versatility. Reich often used Doyle like a secret weapon; finding ways to get him wide open in critical situations, but a Colts offense that has been run-heavy in two of the past three seasons needed him to block more and more.

"He’s arguably the most selfless guy in that locker room,” Colts quarterback Carson Wentz said. “He doesn’t care if he’s run blocking, pass blocking, getting the ball or setting picks for the guys, whatever. He just wants to win.”

Doyle caught 29 passes for 302 yards and three touchdowns in what would end up being his final season in 2021, but his true value came in the running game. Asked to play a variety of roles as a blocker, Doyle could often be seen landing the key block on Jonathan Taylor’s biggest highlights, a player so critical that Reich admitted the offense changed drastically when Doyle was knocked out of the win over Arizona.

“I love running the ball, I love blocking,” Doyle said. “I have a ton of fun doing it.”

Doyle also became emblematic of the type of player the Colts want to have in the locker room.

Unlike his good friend T.Y. Hilton, who became the locker room’s lead voice in 2021, Doyle was always more comfortable leading by example, setting a standard other players couldn’t help but follow.

When new members of the Colts roster arrived, they were given a simple directive: Watch T.Y. and Jack. It’s OK to copy those guys.

“That’s my guy,” Hilton said. “I love Jack to death.”

Doyle has decided to hang up his cleats now.

But the impact he leaves on the Indianapolis franchise is hard to measure.