Reggie Wayne ran out to the loudest Lucas Oil Stadium cheer in pregame introductions.
Everyone knew what this day meant to Wayne, who played in his 209th career regular-season game and was part of a 142nd career win, both new franchise records.
Colts head coach Chuck Pagano said the only game ball awarded for this game was to Wayne.
“He embodies everything that we talk about,” the coach said. “He represents everything that (owner) Mr. (Jim) Irsay talks about: faith, family and football. Resiliency, team player, put the team first, self second.
“What he’s sacrificed, what he’s given to this organization, what he’s given to this city and this community, he is one of the all-timers. He’s going to be in the Ring of Honor at some point. He’ll be in the Hall of Fame at some point. He’s a very, very special, special player and a special person.”
Wayne caught four passes, tying T.Y. Hilton for the team high, for 24 yards with one lost fumble.
The fan favorite said afterward he’s still focused on the team goals for this season now that an AFC South Division title and playoff berth are secured. Some day down the road, he’ll think about the milestone.
“I don’t have time,” he said. “I don’t have the time to sit back and take it all in. Maybe I’ll do that this offseason. I’m not really able to really sit back and enjoy everything until the offseason hits and then I’m kind of able to put things into perspective.
“Normally after each season is over, I normally drive home and those 16 hours back to Florida, that’s when I’m sitting back on I-75 and I’m thinking about what we just achieved, how we can get better and what the future holds.”
Wayne, 36, is in a contract year and has suggested the offseason could be time to make “family decisions,” i.e., retire to spend more time with his three young children. He’s continued to play despite enduring knee, elbow and torn triceps injuries. He wore a bulky, padded sleeve on his upper left arm for this game.
“I can’t do it without those guys in the locker room, training staff, equipment guys,” he said of the milestone. “It’s bigger than me. It’s everyone that’s involved with me that deserves a game ball.
“At some point in time, it’ll sink in, but like we always say, we’re going to enjoy this one for the rest of the day, and (Monday), we got to start thinking about our next opponent.”
The Colts (10-4) are at Dallas Sunday, then Tennessee for the regular-season finale. Barring an unlikely shift in AFC seedings, the team would host a wild-card playoff game on Jan. 3 or 4. So if nothing else, Wayne has earned one more home start.
He said he never thought about Sunday possibly being his last game at home.
Hilton was honored to be a part of Wayne’s special day.
“He’s my big brother,” Hilton said. “He means a lot to me. From the first day I got here, he’s been good for me. Always rooting, always helping, always coaching me. For him, it was a special day, and I was glad to be a part of it.”
So, too, was quarterback Andrew Luck.
“He’s the best, he is,” Luck said. “It’s an honor to play with him and it was great to see him make some plays.”
Wayne said he recalled putting on that Colts horseshoe helmet for the first time in 2001.
“I remember the first time, yeah, I do,” he said. “It feels like yesterday, but at the same time, it feels like it’s been forever. Like I said, the Colts organization, (owner) Mr. (Jim) Irsay and his family, they’ve been outstanding just helping me with my career, believing in me and just giving me an opportunity to be a Colt in the beginning.
“It’s humbling and I’m truly grateful. I just want to continue on. We got a good team and like I told them in there, it’s about team, it isn’t about me. I just want to do everything I possibly can to help this team out so we can achieve the biggest goal.”
Wayne thanked Colts fans for showing him so much love throughout his career.
“These fans have been outstanding, they’re the best,” he said. “Since day one, the city of Indianapolis, the state of Indiana, they’ve been the best when it comes to me. I have zero negative to say anything about them, they’ve been outstanding.
“I appreciate them and and I just want to do everything I can to keep them having a great time, cheering for the Colts and not just myself, but these guys in the locker room as well. We just want to give it everything we have and whenever they’re out there, being that 12th man as they always do. It’s great. It goes bigger than us so I appreciate everything they’ve done for me.”
Phillip B. Wilson can be found on Twitter (@pwilson24), Facebook and Google+.