George Bremer CNHI News Service
Greensburg Daily News
---- — This is the second of two parts of the Matt Overton feature, continued from Aug. 9.
One thing led to another, and Overton ended up in Indianapolis. He was competing against Justin Snow, who had been the Colts long snapper for the previous 12 years, for a job that employs just 32 men in the world.
“Every year as a free-agent long snapper, there’s really maybe four teams out of the 32 that are really legitimately looking for a guy,” Overton said. “And, fortunately enough, the Colts were that team.”
He soaked up everything he could from Snow, watching his every move and listening to his every word. When the final cuts were made at the end of camp, somehow Overton went from an unemployed former community relations staffer to a member of an NFL roster.
Ironically, it might not have happened without Snow’s guidance. And Overton remembers his predecessor every time he steps on the field.
“I try to emulate him every day,” he said. “He set the standard, and I’m just trying to uphold the standard and help this team win like he did.”
Of course, Overton also owes a certain debt to Clarett.
The two men remain friends, and Overton is rooting for the former running back in his quest for a spot on the U.S. Olympic Rugby team.
ESPN is working on a “30 for 30” documentary film about Clarett. And Overton’s own life reads like a movie script these days.
His first game at Lucas Oil Stadium came down to a field-goal attempt. He snapped the ball to McAfee, who held for Vinatieri on a 53-yard field goal to beat the Minnesota Vikings. It was the longest game-winner of Vinatieri’s likely Hall of Fame career.
The Colts surprised the NFL with an 11-5 record and earned an AFC playoff berth. This season, Overton finds himself on a team with goals that include winning a division title and playing in the Super Bowl.
He and Clarett — who is back home with a growing family in Ohio — have come a long way from Omaha.
“The story of redemption for him has been amazing,” Overton said. “Just looking back, it’s pretty crazy to see where both of us are at a year later.”
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Overton was at a Justin Bieber concert on July 10 with 10 teenage girls and their special guests. Mia Benge was supposed to be there, too.
Earlier in the year, Overton attended an auction to benefit Second Helpings — an organization that helps feed the needy in Indianapolis — at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. When tickets for a suite at the Bieber concert went on the block, the long snapper saw the perfect means to hold an event with Riley patients.
He’d visited the hospital for the first time during the holiday season and come away amazed. He outbid another guest for the tickets, but he only had half a suite.
When his one-time opponent learned what Overton planned to do with the tickets, he partnered with his own charity to donate the other half of the suite. The Riley Kids selected to attend learned about the tickets at the end of a tour of the Colts’ practice facility when they were surprised by the long snapper, team mascot Blue and the team’s cheerleaders.
Mia was on that tour, but she was readmitted to Riley on July 8 when she had a relapse. Her sister, Olivia, attended the concert in her place but received a distressing Twitter message during the show asking that she come to the hospital immediately.
Mia wasn’t expected to live through the night.
“We were all at the bedside,” Keri Benge said. “It was moment to moment.”
Overton accompanied Liv down to the waiting car. Then he followed Mia’s story throughout the night on Twitter.
When he learned the girl had survived, Liv invited him to visit the Intensive Care Unit for the first time on July 12.
“We’re just beyond blessed to have her still with us, and she’s been an inspiration for a ton of people,” Overton said. “When I visited the ICU, that unit that she was in was the sickest kids in Indiana. When I first visited, the nurses said, ‘We hardly see miracles like this happen.’ And she really has been a miracle.”
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Overton continued visiting Mia every chance he got. They played a game they made up involving a beach ball. And they jammed to Bieber in the room.
Keri said the interaction was good for Mia. It made the girl forget she was in the hospital, forget she was fighting for her life, and simply look forward to the next visit.
“He’s great with her,” Keri Benge said Thursday, watching Overton again dote on her daughter. “It’s fun to watch. The way he interacts with her and stuff ... I don’t know what else to say. He’s a pretty one-of-a-kind guy.”
McAfee was with Overton the day Mia was moved out of the ICU. The two Colts brought “a ton” of ice cream to share with patients in other areas of the hospital. Before they left, Overton told McAfee, “There’s a girl we have to visit.”
When McAfee saw the way the Benge family — including Mia’s grandmother and
cousins — reacted to Overton’s arrival, he was filled with pride. In the punter’s eyes, Overton had become just another member of the family.
While she watched her daughter converse with Overton on Thursday, Keri Benge would have concurred. She emphatically stated the pair’s relationship is far from over.
Mia will start high school on Monday at Speedway, and Overton is likely to visit again as soon as he can.
“I think this Mia thing is going to change him forever, as it should,” McAfee said. “Mia’s going to do more for Matt than Matt has ever done for Mia.”