Imagine a football team where your running backs are Willis McGahee and Clinton Portis, spelled by Najeh Davenport, and your receiving core is Andre Johnson, Santana Moss, Reggie Wayne, and one Jeremy Shockey at tight end. Well, this is what quarterback Ken Dorsey had to work with in Reggie Wayne’s senior year at “The U” on the Miami Hurricanes. Miami dominated the draft board for most of the early 00’s, not only posting rookie starters, but rookie standout stars that really made a name for themselves.
Wayne had the luxury of having his quarterback upgraded from Ken Dorsey to one Rocky Top gene-freak Peyton Manning. When the Colts selected Reggie 30th overall in 2000, they were excited to have a legitimate threat in their second receiver. It took a year to work out the bugs, but the Colts continued AFC South dominance and postseason relevance by piecing together an offense that eclipsed “The Greatest Show on Turf” in talent. Granted, Edgerrin James (yet another Hurricane) is no Marshall Faulk, but he did post 1500+ and 9 TDs in 04’.
The NFL was already abuzz with talk about offense as the St. Louis Rams, led by former grocery bag filler Kurt Warner. People said things like “this is the most potent offense I’ve seen since the 83’ Redskins!” and even stated, “I don’t think we will ever see an offense this good.” It didn’t take long for those NFL pundits to be eating crow as the 2004 Colts posted 522 points as Peyton Manning went OFF and threw 49 touchdowns. Three different Colt receivers had 4 digit receiving yards and 10 touchdowns that season. The Colts continued to be potent until the unthinkable happened as Peyton Manning missed the entire 2011 season due to neck injury.
So began the Collins-Painter era. Kerry Collins, a man old enough to be a father to many of his teammates, struggled to put the ball in the air against defenses set dead-red on breaking on his passes. Painter, a young quarterback used to having success in the air, was quickly initiated into the NFL having very little success and was often on his back.
Wayne had been getting used to the ace roll as his longtime teammate and mentor Marvin Harrison had retired three seasons earlier. There was optimism as the 2010 season ended moving forward. Wayne was looking like he could have another great season as Pierre Garçon was becoming a viable second option attracting some attention from Reggie.
Without Peyton, the Colts posted their worst season record in history. The fans in blue looked worried, and were desperate to cheer for the long passes they have grown so accustomed to over the last decade. Along came Andrew Luck, a college talent that lifted even the most skeptic of scout out of his seat. So far this year Luck has put up 3,205 yards which is 7th in the league behind…you guessed it, Peyton Manning. Though he’s thrown a pedestrian 13 scores and 13 picks, which is half of Manning’s 26 touchdowns, he’s found Reggie Wayne early and often in all of the games this season. Through 11 games Wayne has 84 grabs for 1,105 yards and 3 scores in what is looking like a bounce back season after receiving for less than 1,000 yards (960 in 2011) for the first time since 2004.
Wayne’s routes are crisp, and it looks like he has his legs back with another strong arm standing in the pocket. There’s not much more frustrating for a receiver, than to work hard to get open and not be seen and thrown to. There hasn’t been much of that this year, as Luck has shown his downfield vision as being veteran-esque, only being hampered by a weak offensive line.
As the chemistry builds in Indy, so does the yardage for Reggie Wayne’s all-time record. As of now, Uncle Reggie sits 14th at 12,813 behind Hall of Famer Steve Largent (13,089) and will likely pass him in a couple of weeks. If he can manage a 15 year career, which seems to be the most common tenure of elite wide outs, than I’m sure he will eclipse the top 10 all time, and even approach Marvin Harrison (14,580). He doesn’t show many signs of slowing down, and Colt fans should enjoy the Luck-Wayne connection for years to come.