INDIANAPOLIS – Reggie Wayne understands the process: You keep knocking on the door until you’re finally able to break it down.
Once again, one of the most prolific wide receivers in Indianapolis Colts and NFL history is knocking on pro football’s most hallowed door. For the fourth consecutive year, Wayne is one of the 15 Modern-era Finalists for the Pro Football Hall of Fame, this time for the Class of 2023.
“I’m just as excited as my first year,’’ he said.
Wayne thought he had a good shot at earning a spot in Canton, Ohio last year.
“I knew I wasn’t getting in my first year, and I knew I wasn’t getting in on the second one,’’ he said. “Third one, I was like, ‘You never know. Maybe this is the time.’
“Now, I don’t know.’’
What matters is he remains in the discussion.
The Class of 2023 will be determined in a few weeks when the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s 49-member Selection Committee – I am one of the voters – convenes. The latest group to be inducted will be announced Feb. 9 during the NFL Honors show prior to Super Bowl LVII in Glendale, Ariz.
Wayne’s journey to the outskirts of Canton began as the 30th overall pick in the 2001 draft and ended when he retired in 2014 as the second-most prolific wideout in franchise history. His 1,070 receptions, 14,345 yards and 82 touchdowns in a club record 211 regular-season games with the Colts trail only Marvin Harrison, who was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame with the Class of 2016.
More significant, those numbers stack up favorably with the best wideouts in NFL history. The most impressive stat: Wayne is one of two players to rank in the top-10 in receptions (10th) and yards (10th) in the regular season and the postseason (5th with 93 receptions, 7th with 1,254 yards).
The other: Jerry Rice.
Wayne was a six-time Pro Bowl selection and first-team All-Pro in 2010, and had eight 1,000-yard seasons and four with at least 100 receptions. He had at least three receptions in 82 consecutive games, still an NFL record. He’s a member of the Colts’ Ring of Honor and was instrumental in the franchise winning nine AFC South championships, reaching the Super Bowl twice and whipping the Chicago Bears 29-17 in Super Bowl XLI after the 2006 season.
“You learn to sit back and look at the guys that do get in, and you just think, ‘Hmm, let me look at their numbers. Let me see what they did,’’’ said Wayne, who’s in his first year as the Colts’ wide receivers coach. “I don’t care what you’re doing, you’re always looking at how you stack up. If you’re a writer, you’re thinking, ‘My story’s better than that guy’s.’ You’re competitive that way.
“There’s nothing we can do at this point in time, but you say, ‘Man, that’s my boy, but I was better than him.’ You know what I mean?’’
That’s the way elite athletes are wired.
“You want to win. You want to be a winner,’’ Wayne said. “You want to be celebrating. And everybody hits you with, ‘Aw, you’ll eventually get in. You’ll eventually make it. You know you’re going to make it.’
“For one, I don’t know, right? I’m like JG Wentworth. I want my money now. I want to get in now. Why wait? I don’t want to wait until I can’t celebrate.’’
Wayne is hoping to join five colleagues who were integral in the Colts’ ultra-successful 2000s that already have bronze busts in Canton: Peyton Manning (Class of 2021), Edgerrin James (Class of 2020), Harrison (Class of 2016), Tony Dungy (Class of 2016) and Bill Polian (Class of 2015).
Manning was inducted in his first year of eligibility. But James had to wait six years and Harrison and Dungy three each.
The long wait frustrated James, but when he was finally enshrined, he said, “When the time is right, it’ll happen. And once you’re in, you’re in.’’
Wayne, James and Harrison remain close.
“I’ve talked with Marv. I’ve talked with Edge,’’ Wayne said. “Edge keeps telling me, ‘Weez, it don’t matter. When you get in there, you’re going to forget about all those other times.’
“Well, when you don’t get the call or the knock, it jabs you a little bit harder.’’
Not getting the necessary support last year, he admitted, was “the first gut punch.’’
In the last nine years, seven modern-era receivers have been enshrined: Calvin Johnson (2021), Isaac Bruce (2020), Randy Moss and Terrell Owens (2018), Harrison (2016), Tim Brown (2015) and Andre Reed (2014).
“Don’t get me wrong, it’s still an honor to be in the conversation,’’ Wayne said. “But it gets redundant a little bit.’’
Friends and fans on social media always prepare him for the best.
This is your year. You’re getting in. I promise you, you’re getting it.
Wayne smiled at the thought.
“I’m like, ‘Yeah, I’ve been here before,’’ he said.
You can follow Mike Chappell on Twitter at @mchappell51.