NFL playoffs: Deji Karim a part of Indianapolis Colts' inspirational season

Former Putnam City North standout's kickoff return won the game that saw Colts coach Chuck Pagano return to the sideline after battling leukemia.
by Michael Baldwin Published: January 5, 2013

photo - Indianapolis Colts' Deji Karim, left, runs back a kickoff 101-yards for a touchdown during the second half of an NFL football game against the Houston Texans Sunday, Dec. 30, 2012, in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/AJ Mast) ORG XMIT: NAS133
Indianapolis Colts' Deji Karim, left, runs back a kickoff 101-yards for a touchdown during the second half of an NFL football game against the Houston Texans Sunday, Dec. 30, 2012, in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/AJ Mast) ORG XMIT: NAS133

Karim is experiencing his own version of a comeback. A month ago, he was a valet at the Renaissance Convention Center in downtown Oklahoma City.

After leading Division I-AA in rushing his senior year at Southern Illinois, Karim was selected in the sixth round by Jacksonville in 2010. He spent two seasons with the Jaguars, rushing for 290 yards on 98 carries.

Jacksonville released him after the season, but Karim signed the following week with the Colts. In March, he married his high school sweetheart, MacKenzie.

He went through offseason workouts with Indianapolis. Everything changed in early September when the Colts released him. He waited. And waited some more.

“It's really tough,” Karim said. “You want someone to call. I stayed in shape. You have to stay with it, you have to stay strong.”

The Bengals and Texans gave Karim tryouts in October, but neither team signed him.

A month later he took the valet job the week after Thanksgiving.

“I had lost my (NFL) job and was tired of living off the money I had made (in Jacksonville),” Karim said. “I had to adjust my lifestyle for the time being.”

Two weeks later, the Colts called after Indy lost running back Donald Brown and fullback Robert Hughes to season-ending injuries on the same play. The Colts signed Karim on Dec. 11.

“They told me, ‘You were here before. You're part of this family,'” Karim said. “I was so excited. At the same time I realized you can't take anything for granted. You have to produce.”

Karim produced a 101-yard kickoff return, the longest since the organization moved from Baltimore to Indianapolis. Karim's return will make the Colts' season highlight tape and improve his chances of extending his career.

After the game, Pagano and his players danced in the locker room. At one point, Pagano hugged team owner Jim Irsay. The pair danced together. It was a heartwarming scene for an inspirational team and its coach.

“It's something I'll remember the rest of my life,” Karim said. “This is a team that had a lot of things happen this year. It's made everyone closer. I'm just happy to be part of it and will do whatever I can to add to it.”

by Michael Baldwin
Reporter
Mike Baldwin has been a sports reporter for The Oklahoman since 1982. Mike graduated from Okmulgee High School in 1974 and attended Oklahoma Christian University, graduating with a journalism degree in 1978. Mike's first job was sports editor...
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