INDIANAPOLIS – Three Indianapolis Colts’ icons continue down the road to Canton, Ohio.
Reggie Wayne, Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis are among the 28 Modern-era Semifinalists for the Class of 2023.
Each was an integral component in the Colts’ dominant decade of the 2000s. Each was a top-tier player at his position. They combined for 18 Pro Bowl selections, five All-Pros, two Super Bowl appearances and one world championship with Indy.
“You want to enjoy that moment, not just by yourself, but with teammates,’’ Wayne said. “You sit back and think about what we had. Not only for us to think about, but it just goes to show to all the outsiders, ‘Damn, they’ve got three dudes? They were pretty good.’
“It’s sweet, it is. At the end of the day you just hope one of us gets in. You know it’s hard, but you just hope one gets in.’’
That will be determined over the next few months.
The 28 Modern-era Semifinalists will be pared down to the 15 Finalists in a vote by the 49-member Selection Committee (I am one of the selectors) over the next month. The Class of 2023 will be determined in mid-January; a maximum of five Modern-era plays can be selected.
Wayne is in his fourth year of eligibility and has reached the Final 15 the last three years. Mathis fell short of reaching the Final 15 in his first year of eligibility last year while Freeney is in his first year of eligibility.
That trio is looking to join five other individuals from the 2000 Colts to have a bronze bust placed in Canton. Preceding them: Peyton Manning (Class of 2021), Edgerrin James (2020), Marvin Harrison (2016), Tony Dungy (2016) and Bill Polian (2015).
“It’s a good look for this organization,’’ said Wayne. “It’s a good look at Bill Polian, drafting guys, drafting a Robert Mathis or a Dwight Freeney. Taking myself instead of a defensive guy. I was supposed to be somebody else.
“People always ask, ‘What made y’all so good?’ We were good because we played together for a long time. They kept us together and that’s rare. That 10 years was special.’’
The quickie bios:
Wayne – 30th overall selection in 2001: ranks 10th in NFL history with 1,070 receptions and 14,345 yards . . . ranks 5th all-time in postseason with 93 receptions, 7th with 1,254 yards and tied-10th with nine TDs. . . . one of only two players to rank in the top-10 in catches/yards in the regular season and playoffs. The other is Jerry Rice. . . . named to six Pro Bowls and one All-Pro . . . two Super Bowls and one world title . . . holds Colts’ record with 211 games played in regular season and 21 in playoffs.
Freeney – 11th overall in 2002: ranks 26th in league history with 125.5 sacks and tied-3rd with 47 forced fumbles. . . . led NFL with nine forced fumbles as a rookie and 16 sacks in 2004. . . . had at least 10 sacks in seven seasons. . . . seven Pro Bowls, three-time All-Pro, member of the Hall of Fame’s 2000s All-Decade team. . . . appeared in three Super Bowls (two with Indy, one with Atlanta) and won one world title with Colts in 2006.
Mathis – 138th overall in 2003 (round 5): holds Colts’ record with 123 sacks. Total ranks 26th in league history. . . . set NFL record with 54 forced fumbles. . . . led league in forced fumbles in 2004 (six), ’05 (eight) and ’13 (10). . . . led league with franchise-record 19.5 sacks in ’13. . . . five Pro Bowls, one All-Pro, two Super Bowl appearances and one world championship.
The other Semifinalist (x – denotes first year of eligibility):
- CB Eric Allen
- DE Jared Allen
- OT Willie Anderson
- CB Ronde Barber
- WR Anquan Boldin
- WR Henry Ellard
- G Jahri Evans-x
- LB London Fletcher
- LB James Harrison-x
- S Rodney Harrison
- WR/KR Devin Hester
- WR Torry Holt
- WR Andre Johnson
- CB Albert Lewis
- CB Darrelle Revis-x
- WR Steve Smith Sr.
- RB Fred Taylor
- OT Joe Thomas-x
- LB Zach Thomas
- WR Hines Ward
- LB DeMarcus Ware
- RB Ricky Watters
- DT Vince Wilfork
- LB Patrick Willis
- S Darren Woodson
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