By George Bremer
The Herald Bulletin
---- — ANDERSON — In late September, Matt Overton helped surprise an Elwood teen during halftime of the Panthers' homecoming game.
On Tuesday night, the Indianapolis Colts long snapper got a welcome shock of his own. His second season in the NFL will end at the Pro Bowl in Hawaii on Jan. 26.
"It's pretty amazing," Overton said during a cellphone interview after the news was made official Wednesday. "I got the surprise last night. It's quite an honor, man."
Overton was selected to play in the game by the Carolina Panthers coaching staff, which will handle one of the two rosters this year. For the first time, the Pro Bowl will not be split into teams representing the AFC and the NFC. Instead, players will be drafted by honorary captains Jerry Rice and Deion Sanders during a pair of television specials next Tuesday and Wednesday at 8 p.m. on NFL Network.
The Colts' coaching staff, led by Chuck Pagano, and Indianapolis outside linebacker Robert Mathis also will take part in the annual NFL all-star game. Quarterback Andrew Luck is a first alternate and could be added following the results of Sunday's conference championship games.
Overton forged a unique path to professional football stardom.
He was cut two years ago by the UFL's Omaha Nighthawks and spent time living on former Ohio State running back Maurice Clarrett's couch while he worked in the team's marketing department. He feared his playing days were over but continued to work out and attended a kicking camp in Arizona.
There he was seen by Colts special teams assistant coach Brant Boyer, who recommended the team give Overton a shot. He came to training camp in 2012, five years after going undrafted out of Western Washington, and beat out 12-year veteran Justin Snow for a job.
Later this month, he'll be the first long snapper ever to represent Indianapolis at the Pro Bowl.
"It's crazy, man," Overton said. "It's an unbelievable thing. I can't wait to get out there and see what it's all about."
Overton already had made a name for himself with many Colts fans through his work with youth battling serious illness. Speedway teen Mia Benge, recovering from two surgeries to fight a brain tumor, was a special guest of Overton during training camp at Anderson University in August.
On Sept. 20, Overton and Indianapolis punter Pat McAfee surprised Elwood's Maddi Helpling as she crowned the school's new homecoming queen during halftime of a football game. Overton arranged the visit with the aid of Helpling's grandmother after learning of the teen's battle with high-grade bone cancer from a story Maddi shared on Twitter.
"I've just been very blessed and fortunate to be in such a great community," Overton said. "Everybody in Indianapolis has been so great, and I love to serve."