That made today somber for so many of his admirers after the Colts announced they would not re-sign the team leader, referred to in the email release as one of their “all-time greatest players.”
Wayne was that, on and off the field.
The only question that remains is if the 14-year pro will entertain playing for another NFL team. The 36-year-old pass catcher repeatedly said during last season that he would only suit up for the Colts.
His body failed him the past two seasons — he finished 2014 playing with one arm due to a torn left triceps and suffered a season-ending knee injury after seven games in 2013. The last two seasons combined — 102 catches for 1,282 yards and four TDs — were less than his 2012 numbers, 106 receptions for 1,355 yards and five touchdowns.
Wayne exits Indy as the Colts’ all-time leader in regular-season games played at 211 and victories with 143. He’s second to Marvin Harrison in the franchise record books in receptions (1,070), receiving yards (14,345), receiving touchdowns (80), 100-yard receiving games (43) and consecutive games with one reception (134).
He ranks seventh in NFL history in career receptions and is eighth in receiving yards.
More than the numbers, Wayne became the face of the franchise after quarterback Peyton Manning’s departure in March of 2012. Wayne was a leader in the locker room for years, but became more vocal. Andrew Luck said during his rookie year that Wayne was the greatest player he’s ever had as a teammate.
Teammates and fans loved him. And the media always enjoyed his candor in interviews.
“Reggie is one of the greatest men to ever wear the horseshoe, and we have been blessed to watch him play for the past 14 years,” Colts owner Jim Irsay said in the team release. “When he first took the field with us in 2001, we knew this day would eventually arrive. That reality is one of the things that makes pro football such a tough business. We feel this decision is in the best interests of the team and for Reggie as it will allow him to seek a better opportunity for playing time elsewhere if he so chooses.
“Reggie is beloved by the Colts organization and our fans and he will always be a part of the Colts family. I look forward to the day in the near future when our great number 87 enters the Colts Ring of Honor and the Pro Football Hall of Fame.”
“He is the epitome of what a coach looks for in a player,” Pagano said. “Hard work, dedication, and sacrifice are just a few ways I would describe him. He encompasses everything that is right about this game, on and off the field. I am so grateful I had the chance to coach Reggie again when I arrived in 2012. It was a blessing to see the impact that he made with this organization and Colts fans around the world. I wish him all the best in the future and thank him for representing the horseshoe in the most professional manner.”
General manager Ryan Grigson referred to one of Wayne’s greatest games — inspired by Pagano’s leukemia diagnosis, the wide receiver caught 13 passes for 212 yards and the game-winning touchdown in a comeback home win over Green Bay in 2012.
“Everyone knows the greatness and history associated with number 87,” Grigson said. “He truly is one of a small handful of players who really define the Colts as an organization. He was already a Hall of Famer in the making when Chuck and I arrived in Indianapolis in 2012, but no one has contributed more, on the field and in this building, to our turnaround, our continued growth, and our overall success since then.
“Reggie was the catalyst that sparked and ignited the team during our comeback against Green Bay in 2012. His gritty performance that day and that entire challenging season infused us all with the belief we could overcome any obstacle. His dedication and the example he set are second to none. We wish him nothing but the best in whatever new endeavor he pursues.”
Wayne was selected with the 30th overall pick in the 2001 NFL Draft. He was selected to six Pro Bowls (2006 to 2010, 2012) and was named to the Associated Press All-Pro first team in 2010. He tied franchise records with eight 1,000-yard receiving seasons and four 100-reception seasons.
In the postseason, Wayne ranks second in NFL history in career receptions (93), fourth in receiving yards (1,254) and tied for seventh in receiving touchdowns (nine).
He set the Colts’ single-game record for receptions with 15 in 2010 and his 212 receiving yards against the Packers in 2012 are the third-most in franchise history for a game. He was an integral part of the Colts’ Super Bowl XLI championship team in 2006 and caught a 53-yard touchdown pass in the title game.
Since his NFL arrival in 2001, Wayne leads all NFL players in receptions and receiving yards and ranks sixth in receiving touchdowns.
Phillip B. Wilson can be found on Twitter (@pwilson24), Facebook and Google+.