INDIANAPOLIS – Peyton Manning and Reggie Wayne formed a dynamic tandem during their careers with the Indianapolis Colts, and now are headliners on a grander stage.
Manning and Wayne are among the 25 modern-era nominees for the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s Class of 2021. The list was pared from 130 to 25 Tuesday by the Selection Committee (I am one of 48 members).
Manning is in his first year of eligibility and considered a lock to be a first-ballot inductee. He’s the NFL’s only five-time MVP, a two-time Super Bowl champion, a seven-time All-Pro, the Colts’ leader in most significant passing categories . . . well, you get the idea. His stats from a 17-year career (he missed 2011 with his neck issues): 71,940 yards, 539 touchdowns, a 186-79 record as a starter.
Wayne, meanwhile, reached the Final 15 in 2020, his first year of eligibility. He ranks 10th in league history in receptions (1,070) and yards (14,345), also was an undeniable force in the postseason with 93 catches (3rd most), 1,254 yards (5th) and nine TDs (tied-9th).
Manning and Wayne were elite on their own, but prolific as a pitch-and-catch pair.
During their 10-year association with the Colts, they collaborated for 779 receptions, 10,602 yards and 67 TDs. The catches and yards are 2nd-most in NFL history by a quarterback-wideout tandem – trailing only Manning and Hall of Famer Marvin Harrison (Class of 2016) – while the TDs rank 4th all-time.
Their place in Colts’ lore is undeniable. Each was a Colt for 14 seasons; only John Unitas (17) had a longer tenure with the franchise. Wayne appeared in a team-record 211 games; Manning is tied with Unitas for 2nd (208). Wayne was a part of 143 regular-seasons wins, most in team history, two more than Manning.
When the Colts defeated the Chicago Bears in Super Bowl XLI for their first world championship in more than a quarter-century, Manning, the game’s MVP, threw one TD pass – a 53-yarder.
It went to Wayne.
One other player with Colts’ ties made the cut to 25: linebacker Cornelius Bennett, who is a first-time semifinalist.
The list of 25 semifinalists will be further pared to the Final 15 in January. The Class of 2021 will be determined Feb. 6 in Tampa by the Selection Committee.
Moreover, it could be a very Colts-flavored induction ceremony next August in Canton, Ohio.
The Class of 2020 included Edgerrin James, the Colts’ career rushing leader. That class’ ceremony last August was posted by the COVID-19 and will be held on consecutive days with the Class of 2021. The ceremony for the Class of 2021 is on the books for Aug. 8 and for the Class of 2020 Aug. 7.
Joining Manning and Wayne as semifinalists for the Class of 2021 (x-denotes a first-year eligible player):
- CB Eric Allen
- DE Jared Allen-x
- OT Willie Anderson
- CB/S Ronde Barber
- LB Cornelius Bennett
- OT Tony Boselli
- S LeRoy Butler
- G Alan Faneca
- S Rodney Harrison
- WR Torry Holt
- WR Calvin Johnson-x
- S John Lynch
- LB Clay Matthews
- LB Sam Mills
- DE Richard Seymour
- WR/ST Steve Tasker
- RB Fred Taylor
- LB Zach Thomas
- WR Hines Ward
- LB Patrick Willis
- CB/S Charles Woodson-x
- S Darren Woodson
- DT Bryant Young