Peyton Manning reflects on Reggie Wayne’s career ahead of Ring of Honor ceremony

Peyton Manning #18 of the Indianapolis Colts talks with teammate Reggie Wayne #87 during their 40-21 victory over the New England Patriots during their game at Gillette Stadium on November 7, 2005 in Foxboro, Massachusetts. (Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images)

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – He was the first-round draft pick that no one outside of the inner sanctum saw coming. He was another offensive toy for Peyton Manning at a time the Indianapolis Colts’ defense was crying out for help.

Two or three days after Bill Polian invested the 30th overall pick in the 2001 NFL Draft on a productive receiver out of Miami, Reggie Wayne caught wind that coach Jim Mora “didn’t even want me. He wanted a defensive guy because the defense was struggling.’’

It got worse.

Listen to Manning, who recalled Wayne’s less-than-spectacular debut with the Colts.

“Reggie, first-round pick coming in out of Miami,’’ Manning said. “I can remember his first practice. He dropped like three balls.

“Everybody was kind of looking around like, ‘What’s going on?’’’

Wayne’s bobbles were short-lived, and quickly forgotten.

“From the second practice until he retired,’’ Manning said, “I think he hardly ever dropped a ball.’’

Sunday, Wayne joins former teammates Manning, Jeff Saturday, Edgerrin James, Marvin Harrison, Tony Dungy and Bill Polian in the Colts’ Ring of Honor.

Why? Look no further than Wayne’s bottom line that blended availability with productivity. A quick by-the-numbers look at his career:

  • 14: seasons with the Colts. Only John Unitas (17) was with the team longer.
  • 211: regular-season games, most in team history.
  • 21: post-season games, most in team history.
  • 143: regular-season wins, most in team history.
  • 1,070: receptions, 10th-most in NFL history.
  • 14,345 yards: 10th-most in NFL history.
  • 93: post-season receptions, 2nd-most to Jerry Rice (151).

Manning and Harrison set the all-time NFL standard for quarterback-receiver tandems with 112 touchdowns, 953 receptions and 12,766 yards.

Manning and Wayne weren’t exactly scrubs: 67 TDs, 779 receptions, 10,602 yards.

“Great hands,’’ Manning said. “Great ‘hands’ catcher. Great worker. All those guys coming out of Miami worked hard, so he fit right into our culture, which was practicing full speed and always practicing.’’

Wayne saw his 2013 season end Oct. 20 when he tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee against Denver. Two days later, the Colts placed him on the injured reserve list.

He had appeared in 188 consecutive games, at the time the league’s longest active streak among receivers.

“I knew the best ability was availability,’’ Wayne said. “I wanted to be available. I had the boys there – the Peytons, the Marvins, the Edgerrins, the Tarik Glenns, Jeff Saturday – and those dudes set the tone.’’

Manning witnessed that every week during practice.

“He and Marvin never came out, not only during games, but never came out during practice,’’ he said. “They took every rep in practice. When you have that kind of timing every single play with the receivers who are going to be in the game, it’s going to pay off for you.

“I just had great appreciation for his work ethic and his ability to run after the catch. And just unbelievable toughness.

“Just great respect for him and his career and looking forward to coming down and celebrating with him going into the Ring of Honor.’’

Wayne insisted he’s bled “Colts blue’’ since 2001.

“I didn’t want to go anywhere else,’’ he said. “I didn’t want to do anything else. I just wanted my peers to respect me and tell me I was a good player, a great teammate, a great person. And I wanted to please the fans.’’

The Ring of Honor?

“What it does is it cements my legacy,’’ Wayne said. “I don’t have to get any more accolades, any more honors to tell me everything I did was appreciated and was respected.’’