Jeff Saturday - Giving the Best You’ve Got

By Jessica Irven, MS, LRT/CTRS, CCLS

Jeff Saturday knows how important it is to work together with a supportive and collaborative team—especially when the talk turns toward burn recovery and support. His 14-year professional football career included 13 seasons with the Indianapolis Colts, one with the Green Bay Packers, 6 Pro Bowls and a Super Bowl. Jeff describes one of his proudest achievements: recent induction into the NFL Hall of Fame induction for the Longest Center-Quarterback Duo in NFL history (13 years). Truly, his life path has brought many highs. Yet Saturday told the crowd: “It’s not about wins or losses. . . it’s about showing up and giving it the best you’ve got”. This lesson proved true both on and off the field for Saturday and his family.    

Life’s path also brought the burn injuries of his youngest son and the son of a close family friend. The Saturday family has learned firsthand the long recovery process of a burn injury and its impact on the child and the entire family.  He shared lessons from on the field and off, including the importance of teamwork in elements of healing, including goal setting, communication and surviving storms together.

During his keynote address to the Phoenix World Burn Congress attendees, his emphasis on the importance of teamwork took a more personal turn. Impacted by the burn injuries of his own son (then a toddler, burned on his hands) and another burn injury of a close family friend, the Saturday family fully understands how crucial a team can be for healing, survival, and thriving, too.  Saturday described his own family’s challenges, saying “A burn injury will take you so much further than you ever think you have to go. There is no play book. There isn’t a plan before you hit the field” (when faced with a burn injury). Yet the family found strength in their journey and later turned their experiences into ways to help others facing similar challenges.

Saturday addressed four key areas related to his own experiences on and off the football field, including many lessons from and for the burn community. While evoking laughter with his football antics and (stories), Saturday emphasized that it really is about working together as a “team” for everything: in healing, this means goals, knowing that every one has a role to play, communication, and surviving storms (difficulties).

Saturday’s own career lessons are a shining example of setting goals and staying focused on those goals to move forward. His professional football experience highlights the importance of small goals (such as weekly game plans) as part of a larger plan (like playing in the Playoffs and winning the Super Bowl). In fact, Saturday was not drafted to play professionally after college.  Yet he took that year to continue training without losing focus on his goal, and ultimately signed with the Indianapolis Colts the following year. Taking the next step to become an ESPN commentator after retiring from professional football is part of keeping his goals surrounding what he values—a connection to the game.  Saturday emphasized how his career lessons helped him understand goals of a burn team (for example, in football he would set personal goals as part of a team effort; have your own 5 goals and also work toward 5 of the team’s larger goals).

His links to the incremental goals in burn recovery are so important. So many small goals go into recovery, including recovering from physical pain from surgeries before addressing other issues (work, school, money, family). It can be a matter of creating a new “normal”, learning how to do things differently during recovery , accepting role adjustments in family systems, learning how to accept help from neighbors/friends/family during recovery. For parents, it’s facing short term issues about who cares for the children; for adults it can be about providing for the family; in relationships it might include facing your fears about how to be a good partner. His realistic approach emphasized goal-setting  through incremental goals so you can see your step-by-step process. He explained that focusing on short-term goals will help the longer term focus of getting back to living.

Saturday’s general message on teamwork embraced everyone in the burn community. He acknowledged that people are different in their viewpoints, their injuries, and their roles in healing (as a burn survivor, family member, health care professional, or fire service professional).   Yet his message resonated for all listeners: your role is just as valuable as everyone else’s; healing and moving forward takes team work with everyone playing their role. For there to be full support and success,  all are important. And knowing your role helps demonstrate what the team really looks like. For, as Saturday described, Peyton Manning can’t play center—that’s not his strength and that wouldn’t help the team—(but Jeff Saturday can!).  In burn recovery, setting goals, both short and long term, and keeping open communication with your team- where everyone plays a role- are keys to moving forward in healing after burn injury.

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