Like quarterback Peyton Manning, wide receiver Marvin Harrison, defensive end Dwight Freeney, tight end Dallas Clark, safety Bob Sanders and safety Antoine Bethea before him, Wayne’s image will soon come down. The team recently announced it would not re-sign the 14-year fan favorite.
That begs an obvious question: Which player will have a mural in place of Wayne on the stadium’s Northeast corner?
Outside linebacker Robert Mathis, quarterback Andrew Luck and kicker Adam Vinatieri occupy the other three mural spots. The Colts have said a decision has not yet been made on Wayne’s mural replacement.
There’s been so much player turnover in a short amount of time, the list of likely possibilities isn’t as lengthy as some might think. Here’s a short list of the most worthy considerations:
Wide receiver T.Y. Hilton — The speedy pass catcher who thanks fans after scoring touchdowns with his “T.Y.” hand gesture celebration is the team’s No. 1 receiver. He equaled his season best total of 82 catches last season for a career-high 1,345 yards and seven touchdowns. He made his first Pro Bowl last season. The former third-round pick is entering his fourth season and a contract year.
Offensive left tackle Anthony Castonzo — How about giving the O-line some love? Castonzo has started 60 regular-season games since being selected in the first round in 2011. He’s considered the Colts’ best blocker and has been in town one year longer than Hilton. He, also, is entering a contract year.
Punter Pat McAfee — Yes, the fun-loving specialist is worthy. And based on longevity, he actually ranks third in team tenure behind Mathis (12 seasons) and Vinatieri (nine seasons). He made his first Pro Bowl last season and like Vinatieri was also selected to the All Pro first team. He’s averaged 45.8 yards per punt in his career with 146 downed inside the 20. As a kickoff specialist, he led the NFL with 70 touchbacks last season and also was part of three recovered onside kicks. Few players have displayed the personality of McAfee in his six seasons with the Colts. Fans love the guy, who never misses an opportunity to interact with the fan base. Always charity conscious, McAfee was named the Colts’ Walter Payton “Man of the Year” recipient last season for outstanding achievement on and off the field.
Phillip B. Wilson can be found on Twitter (@pwilson24), Facebook and Google+.