INDIANAPOLIS — As each game week neared an end, Indianapolis Colts media members always looked forward to “Reggie Friday.”
That’s when wide receiver Reggie Wayne held court in the locker room after Friday practice. Always entertaining, outspoken and worth every minute, “Reg” was one of the best chats in Horseshoe history.
As Wayne is inducted Sunday into the Colts Ring of Honor — deservedly joining many of his old friends including Edgerrin James, Peyton Manning, Marvin Harrison and Jeff Saturday — memories inevitably return from enriching days past.
No. 87 was quite the NFL player. And he became so much more than that.
He arrived in 2001 as the 30th overall selection in the first round, a choice initially questioned by many who thought the Colts needed to bolster a bad defense.
Harrison was the go-to guy that Manning would usually look for in the passing game. It took several years for Wayne to become that guy, or even a star for that matter, on a roster routinely loaded with Pro Bowl players.
Wayne made his first of six Pro Bowls in 2006, although he didn’t start surpassing Harrison statistically until the next year. His best of 14 seasons can be debated. He caught a career-best 111 passes in 2010. The most receiving yards were 1,510 in 2007. The top TD total was 12 in 2004.
When he was finished, Wayne had 1,070 catches for 14,345 yards and 82 TDs. In 21 playoff games, he had 93 catches for 1,254 yards and nine scores. He retired as the Colts franchise leader in playoff catches, receiving yards, yards from scrimmage, all-purpose yards, receiving and total touchdowns as well as eight games with at least one touchdown.
Nobody has ever played in more Colts games than Wayne’s 211. And nobody has ever won more in a Colts uniform than Wayne’s 143 victories.
But, again, he was so much more than the numbers.
Fans adored him, especially his pregame routine when he would run to the North east corner of the end zone to salute fans after opening introductions.
He was serenaded then as he will be Sunday with the endless chants of “Reg-gie! Reg-gie! Reg-gie!” Lucas Oil Stadium is known as “The House that Peyton Built,” but by the end of his career, Wayne owned the place.
We remember the cool dude for his swagger and style, starting from the preseason’s opening day in how he arrived at training camp. A year after “Edge” departed in free agency, Wayne wore a James Arizona Cardinals jersey to camp. In later years, he showed up in hunting gear, in fatigues with military personnel, climbing out of a dump truck, stepping out of a helicopter as well as donning a racing suit and zooming in from the back seat of a two-seater Indy car.
Closest teammates knew him as “Weezy,” because he could do a hilarious gravely voice impersonation of “The Jeffersons” TV housewife played by Isabel Sanford.
Yeah, Weezy was a blast.
Now a Colts assistant, who celebrates his 40th birthday on Saturday, the most enduring personal memories of Wayne are what he taught me about the game.
It was Wayne who reiterated that any time a receiver gets at least one hand on a football, that ball should be caught. No excuses. He sure made his share of amazing one-handed catches.
And then there was his unforgettable lesson on motivation. The assignment in August of 2006 during training camp at Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology in Terre Haute, Ind., pertained to asking Colts to share the most memorable plays of their careers. Players talked touchdowns, runs, catches, tackles and interceptions.
Then Wayne said it was a catch he didn’t make, a fourth-quarter pass into the end zone that was tipped by a Pittsburgh Steelers defender. Wayne got a hand on it, but couldn’t grab that ball for the possible game-winning touchdown.
That’s when he shared his take on how one hand on the ball means you must catch the ball. That’s also when he shared that it’s the plays he didn’t make that drive him. That was his most memorable play, because the Colts were upset by the Steelers and didn’t go on to win the Super Bowl, as so many expected.
After Wayne imparted those words of wisdom, the Colts went on that season to win Super Bowl XLI. We remember him burning the Chicago Bears on a 53-yard touchdown pass in the opening quarter.
We remember a lot.
His career will soon become the subject of debate during Super Bowl weekend as media members consider whether a wide receiver who ranks 10th in career receptions and receiving yards is worthy of induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Here’s hoping that one day he will receive that honor.
Whether or not that happens, Reggie Wayne will always be one of the best Colts players to ever wear the uniform, and beyond that, one of the most enjoyable personalities we’ve had the pleasure to know.
We’ll remember the latter, Reg, more than anything.