INDIANAPOLIS -- If history is any indication, at some point on Sunday afternoon against the Houston Texans, the tears may start to slowly roll down the side of Indianapolis Colts receiver Reggie Wayne's face.
It might be when he’s putting his jersey on. It might be when he pauses for a second and then sprints through the tunnel during pregame introductions. Might be during the national anthem, similar to at MetLife Stadium against the New York Giants last month. Or they might not come until Wayne is acknowledged by the public address announcer for moving past Peyton Manning for the most games played in franchise history at 209.
It wouldn't be right if the tears didn't flow for Wayne.
Wayne joined the Colts as a wide-eyed rookie in 2001, simply wanting to fit in alongside Manning, Marvin Harrison and the rest of the offense.
“That’s all I wanted,” Wayne said with a smile that can easily light up a room. “I didn’t want to mess things up.”
Now, 1,061 receptions, 14,207 yards and 82 touchdowns later, Wayne is at the top of the record book for the Colts.
“The talent that he has, the work ethic, I think, combined with that talent has made him a special player, such a productive player. His durability, I think last year, I think it was against us, was the first time we’ve ever seen him get injured and miss any time, so he’s been a true tough guy out there,” Manning, now with the Denver Broncos, said this week. “He’s a Hall of Fame receiver, in my opinion, five years after he decides to retire, you know, go down as one of the all-time great receivers, all-time great Colts. Great guy to play with, great teammate, heck of a wide receiver, too.’’
It’s uncertain how many more games Wayne will add to his total with Indianapolis beyond this season. That's because as hard as it may be for some to admit, Wayne’s career is coming to an end, probably quicker than many want it to be.
Durability had never been issue during Wayne’s first 12 years. But his body has started to break down. It started with the torn ACL last season. He suffered an MCL injury in his surgically repaired knee earlier this season. Then there was an elbow injury that caused him to miss a game and he’s currently dealing with a torn triceps.
Wayne, a free-agent to be, will sit down with his family at the end of the season and weigh his options. One thing that will impact Wayne’s decision – outside of how his body feels – is his family. It’s not fun for Wayne to have to hear about his son’s football games via phone or text. He wants to be Mr. Soccer Dad; you know, the father who's in the stands cheering his children on and giving them tips while playing in the backyard.
Year round, not just during the offseason.
“It’s faith, family, football,” Wayne said. “I don’t think my family would say, ‘Hey, no more’ we still have bills. But at the same time, family is very important. You definitely have to listen to your body and then you weigh your options. All those things play a key role into it. It’s something you never can prepare for until it’s all over.”
Just know that when he decides to finally call it quits, Wayne won’t be one of those players who has second thoughts and comes out of retirement.
And playing for another team? Not going to happen. That’s not how he operates.
“If I’m going to make Corona commercials and put my feet in the sand, they’re going to stay in the sand,” Wayne said. “I’m just happy I’ve made it this far with just one team. That’s hard to do these days.”
Whether his career ends at the end of the season or in the next year or two, Wayne has no regrets. He approached each game, each practice, each offseason workout like he was auditioning for a job. He always wanted to make sure the front office never had any reason to let him go.
“Stability. Longevity. Playmaker,” Colts linebacker Robert Mathis said. “He’s good enough to hang around for 14 years and he’s someone that you want around for 14 years with your young guys. ... He set the standard. He’s set the bar pretty high as far as being a professional.
“He does everything right as far as stuff that needs to be done to be able to be in this game for so long. Fourteen years and only one hiccup, last year, and to come back, bounce back, full-go from it, it just lets you know the guy does the little things right.”