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All-time UNC football countdown: No. 9 Jeff Saturday

This former UNC Center is the true embodiment of the phrase “a gentleman and a scholar.”

Jeff Saturday

This summer, Tar Heel Blog will profile the top 25 players in the history of the North Carolina football program. The rankings were determined by votes from readers and staff.

Career at UNC

Jeff Saturday came to UNC in 1994 pegged as an offensive lineman too small to play against the massive defensive lines of the SEC. Saturday proved that assessment was wrong as a four-year letterman on the offensive line, starting his sophomore, junior, and senior seasons.

Awards and Honors

He served as a team captain in his junior and senior seasons. Saturday was named to the First Team All-ACC as a center in 1996 and 1997. He was also named as a First Team Academic All-ACC in 1997. He played for some of the best teams in UNC history, appearing in four bowl games winning three of them (including back to back Gator Bowl victories in 1996 and 1997).

Top Game at UNC

It’s hard to find the best game for a center without the help of flashy stats to go on. You can only look to the best performances during their time. There were many big wins over Saturday’s four-year career. None more impressive than his last game as a Tar Heel.

One of the most dominating bowl wins in UNC football history came on January 1, 1998. 7th ranked 10-1 North Carolina was matched up against Virginia Tech in the Gator Bowl. North Carolina racked up over 400 total yards on offense en route to a 42-3 win over the Hokies.

After UNC

Despite his success at North Carolina, it would not be enough to secure a draft selection in the 1998 NFL Draft. Saturday was signed by the Baltimore Ravens but was cut before ever seeing the field.

After some time off from football, he was picked up by the Indianapolis Colts in January of 1999. He would become their full-time center for the next 12 seasons until 2011. He would be the anchor on a line that led Peyton Manning to his first championship win in Super Bowl XLI.

Overall, he started 188 out of 197 games while he was in Indianapolis. During that time, he was selected to five Pro-Bowls and twice as a First Team All-Pro.

In 2012, Saturday signed a two-year deal with the Green Bay Packers, but announced he would retire following the 2013 Pro Bowl. His final snap was to Manning, even though they were on opposing teams. This made for one of the best highlights from the Pro Bowl:

Saturday went on to sign a one-day deal with the Colts before he officially retired. in 2015, the Colts honored Saturday by inducting him into their Ring of Honor.

In 2014, Saturday visited Chapel Hill and sat down with Jones Angell to talk about his career at UNC and in the NFL, and his post-playing days.