Reggie Wayne told everyone who would listen that he sincerely wanted to be back in Indianapolis after last season.
Given the uncertainty surrounding the Indianapolis roster and the rate with which veterans were jettisoned, no one took him seriously.
They should have.
A free agent for scarcely a day, Wayne re-signed with the Colts and now finds himself as the elder statesman and last man standing of what was once the most fearsome offense in football.
At the time he signed his deal, people questioned his sanity for returning to a Colts team that is a shadow of its former self. When asked what he would say to them, Wayne replied,
Sit back, watch and see what happens. That’s all I can say. Some people say depleted, I say younger, hungrier. I mean, I love the teams of the past, but we know once we sign those contracts anything can happen. I wanted to be here. I wanted to help build this foundation, and keep it going.
Bring Colts winning back to the old winning days, and just do some great things. We’ve got a nice young team, but we’ve got a hungry team. We’ve still got some OGs (original gangsters) at each position, take away the quarterback position. But, I mean, he’s the first pick, so he’s a baby OG (original gangster). So we’ve still got some guys at each position that can lead the way and show the young guys what to do. So we’re just going to take that and build off of that.
With so many changes ranging from the quarterback to the head coach and the offensive coordinator, Wayne feels like it's a fresh start for him as well.
Guys will come ask questions...It just comes with the territory. As I’m telling them too, I said, ‘Look, I’m a rookie all over again myself,’ just dealing with the whole new offensive terminology and philosophy. But at the same time, I guess they figure since I’m the older guy that I can grasp it a little easier.
His personal goal for the season is quite simple:
With the new offense and all that, right now my goal now is to learn this offense in and out. I’m moving all around right now, and I’ve really got my hands full. So right now my personal goal is to know what I’m doing.
Wayne isn't doing anything differently than he has ever done, because he knows leadership isn't about talk but action. He's been a fixture at the JUGS machine after practice, working on catching passes. What started out as a solo act has become a group project.
I catch, between walk-through and practice, 150 balls. That’s my chance to catch some balls and keep my hands used to feeling that football so that whenever the ball is thrown to me in practice, I’m ready for it.
And it did start out as just me by myself, but then a couple of coaches, the tight ends coach, Alfredo Roberts, he saw me doing it, so he made the tight ends come over. (Austin) Collie was always a guy who kind of came every now and then. So I don’t know, I guess you can lead by being vocal and you can lead by example. It’s just something that I do and I guess they’re just catching heed to it and jumping on ship, too.
His efforts are not lost on the fans, who have embraced him like never before. They cheer his every move at open practices and show their appreciation for the way he embraced the city and the team. Wayne, in turn, has welcomed the attention.
It’s cool. I mean, I guess they figured I was going to jump ship. But it’s cool, man. I mean I love these fans. These fans are part of the fuel that keeps me going. They’ve always opened their arms to me since day one, so I can’t do anything but open my arms up to them. It’s fun. I guess I’m getting some of the Peyton Manning fans to come over onto my ship, but it’s cool, man. Hopefully, we can got out and give them some great things to cheer for.
His teammates are watching his every move. Much in the way Wayne said that Marvin Harrison would help him in his younger days, but only if Wayne asked for help. Now a veteran himself, Wayne shares freely with teammates who seek his guidance.
That resource isn't wasted on younger players. T.Y. Hilton said of him:
We look to him a lot. That’s Reggie Wayne, a 12-year (veteran). There isn’t too much a defense can throw at us that he hasn’t seen, so watching film with him, breaking it down, out on the field, just asking him any questions you want and he’ll pretty much answer them.
On and off the field, Wayne is making an impact for the Colts and showing exactly why the team needed him back and why he so desperately wanted to return.
All quotes were obtained by the reporter or courtesy of the Indianapolis Colts.