The 25 Greatest Players in Indianapolis Colts History

Tyler BrookeSenior Analyst IIMay 24, 2013

The 25 Greatest Players in Indianapolis Colts History

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    As OTAs begin and teams in the NFL finally start preparing for the regular season, now seems like as good of a time as any to rank the greatest players in the history of the Indianapolis Colts.

    The move from Baltimore to Indianapolis was a difficult one for the Colts, and the team struggled for quite some time. However, some gems came and went during these seasons who were truly great players in Indy.

    Over the past few two decades, the team has certainly had plenty of exciting players.

    When it comes to No. 1, is there really anyone else you can think of?

    These rankings are not solely based upon stats. They are also based upon how big of an impact players made in Indianapolis and how they helped the team.

    Opinions on rankings are bound to be different. These are from a native of Indianapolis who grew up in the Golden Age of Colts football.

     

    Note: These rankings are based off players in Indianapolis, not Baltimore. Players who played on both teams are judged upon their performance solely in Indianapolis.

Honorable Mention: Andrew Luck, QB, 2012-Present

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    Andrew Luck may have had a tremendous rookie year, but it's too early to put him on this list.

    If last year is a preview of things to come, there's no doubt that Luck will quickly make it onto this list.

25. Hunter Smith, P, 1998-2008

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    The best punter is the one who's never used, assuming the offense isn't constantly turning the ball over.

    In the case of the Colts, they arguably had one of the best punters ever.

    When it did come time to punt, Hunter Smith did a fine job. He was a Pro Bowl alternate three times in his career and had a career-long punt of 69 yards back in 2002.

    After being a fan favorite and an overall solid punter, Smith had to at least crack the list.

24. Brandon Stokley, WR, 2003-2006

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    Brandon Stokley will always be known as the player who caught the 49th touchdown for Peyton Manning, breaking Dan Marino's record for most touchdown passes in a season.

    Manning may no longer hold that record, but fans still remember Stokley quite well.

    2004 was, by far, the best year for Stokley in his career. He finished with 68 catches for 1,077 yards and 10 touchdowns. 

    One great season and a catch that will be remembered for a long time helps Stokley's case to make it onto the list, but he doesn't make it that far into it.

23. Cato June, LB, 2003-2006

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    One of the key pieces to the Colts defense during their Super Bowl run, Cato June was a solid player for a few seasons with the Colts. 

    During the 2004-2006 seasons, June had 355 combined tackles to go along with one sack, two forced fumbles and 10 interceptions. He ended the 2006 regular season with 143 combined tackles and three interceptions. Along with a Super Bowl ring, June was also a Pro Bowl player in 2005.

    Had June played with this team longer and become a bigger leader, there is no doubt he would have been higher on this list.

22. Tony Siragusa, DT, 1990-1996

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    As far as undrafted free agents go, Goose can be considered a major success in Indianapolis.

    Tony Siragusa was able to put up some big numbers, despite playing as a defensive tackle. 1994 was a pretty big year, racking up 88 combined tackles and five sacks.

    While Goose is now known as a sideline reporter on Sundays, his career with Indianapolis was a successful one. He did a great job manhandling offensive linemen, and his solid stint with the Colts earns him a spot on the list.

21. Mike Vanderjagt, K, 1998-2005

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    I can hear the boos already.

    Sure, the way Mike Vanderjagt left Indianapolis wasn't pretty, but he did have an incredible career with the Colts. 

    Vanderjagt went the entire 2003 regular season and postseason without missing a field goal or extra point, the first kicker to ever do so. His 42 consecutive made field goals during the regular season were the most in the history of the NFL.

    While Vanderjagt will be forever known to some as "Vandershank" for missing a potential game-tying field goal in the 2005 playoffs against the Pittsburgh Steelers, he still had quite an impressive career with the Colts.

20. Ray Buchanan, DB, 1993-1996

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    Even though Ray Buchanan became better known as an Atlanta Falcons player, he got off to quite a good start with the Colts.

    During his time in Indianapolis, Buchanan had a successful four seasons. He was an All-Pro selection in 1994, finishing with 100 combined tackles, eight interceptions and three defensive touchdowns.

    Buchanan went on to become a big success with the Atlanta Falcons. Who knows how he would have turned out if he had stayed with the Colts, but he certainly played well while he was with the team.

19. Duane Bickett, LB, 1985-1993

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    It's hard to play on a team that struggles for a number of seasons, but Duane Bickett did just that. Not only did he do so, he also managed to play quite well.

    One of the few original great Colts, Bickett had a fantastic career. During his first season in the NFL, he was named the Defensive Rookie of the Year. In 1987, he was named to the Pro Bowl.  He finished with over 1,000 tackles and more than 50 sacks with the Colts.

    Bickett is one of the few bright spots from the early days of the Colts. His name won't be remembered by younger fans, but he was a great player.

18. Gary Brackett, LB, 2003-2011

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    At 5'11'', Gary Brackett was never the tallest guy on the field, but he was the heart and soul of the Colts defense for a number of years.

    A lifelong Colt, Brackett finished his career with over 700 combined tackles. He was able to finish his career with a Super Bowl ring. For an undrafted player, he can consider his career to be quite a success.

    A humanitarian and captain, Brackett is the essence of what it means to be a member of the Colts organization.

17. Marcus Pollard, TE, 1995-2004

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    Yet another undrafted success story, Marcus Pollard was the big name at tight end before Dallas Clark came into town.

    Pollard was a consistent option in the passing game during his time with the Colts. His brightest year was in 2001, finishing the season with 47 receptions for 739 yards and eight touchdowns. 

    Although he was eventually replaced by another big name at tight end, Pollard had a fine career in Indianapolis. Tight ends were regularly used as blockers for most of the time in NFL history, but Pollard was one of the players earlier on who became an impact receiver as well.

16. Bob Sanders, S, 2004-2010

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    Another big piece to the defense, Bob Sanders was always an impact player when healthy.

    There are plenty of accolades for Sanders. He was a two-time Pro Bowler and All-Pro, Super Bowl champion and Defensive Player of the Year in 2007. He finished his career in Indy with nearly 300 combined tackles and plenty of big plays.

    Unfortunately, Sanders continually struggled to stay healthy. He played in only 47 regular-season games during his six seasons with the team. If he had been able to consistently stay on the field, there's little doubt Sanders would have been much higher up on this list.

15. Bill Brooks, WR, 1986-1992

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    During the earlier seasons for the Colts, there wasn't really an impact, or consistent, quarterback. Names like Jeff George and Jack Trudeau played under center, but Bill Brooks still found ways to make plays as a receiver.

    The first member of the Colts' Ring of Honor, Brooks did a lot without much help. Despite having some questionable players throwing to him, he finished his time with the Colts with 411 catches for 5,350 yards and 28 touchdowns.

    Even if Brooks wasn't named a Pro Bowler as a member of the Colts, he is still honored as one of the best receivers in Indianapolis.

14. Ray Donaldson, C, 1984-1992

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    Ray Donaldson was one of the few players to make the transition from Baltimore to Indianapolis and make a significant impact on the team.

    As a member of the Colts while they were in Indianapolis, Donaldson was a Pro Bowler an impressive four times. Although he went on to have even more success with the Dallas Cowboys, he played 13 years for the Colts from 1980 to 1992.

13. Jim Harbaugh, QB, 1994-1997

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    Jim Harbaugh is now known for being the head coach for the San Francisco 49ers. Before he was a coach, he was known by Colts fans as "Captain Comeback."

    As a player with the Colts, Harbaugh had a tremendous season in 1995. He had 2,575 yards and 17 touchdowns with only five interceptions with a passer rating of 100.7. He was named to the Pro Bowl as well as awarded with the AP NFL Comeback Player of the Year award.

    Now, Harbaugh is a member of the Colts Ring of Honor. He was the best quarterback for the Colts in Indy before the Manning era began.

12. Tarik Glen, OT, 1997-2006

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    Protecting one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time will get you on this list, and Tarik Glenn certainly did a great job of protecting Manning.

    While protecting Manning, Glenn played in and started 154 games. He earned three straight Pro Bowl bids in 2004, 2005 and 2006. 

    Despite being a Pro Bowl player in 2006, Glenn called it quits after the year. Had he continued to play at the high level that he did, Glenn would have made the top 10.

11. Dallas Clark, TE, 2003-2011

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    A rather unconventional tight end, Dallas Clark became one of the biggest threats in the passing game for the Colts.

    As a member of the Colts, Clark had 427 receptions for 4,887 yards and 46 touchdowns. He was a Pro Bowler in 2009 and a member of the Super Bowl-winning team.

    It's hard not to have Clark in the top 10, but there are a number of big names ahead of him on this list.

10. Eric Dickerson, RB, 1987-1991

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    There's plenty to debate about why Eric Dickerson should not be in the top 10 on this list.   Contract disputes, friction with the front office and success with other teams make him feel like less of a Colt, but he still had a huge impact on the team while he was there.

    His first full season with the team in 1988 was electric. He finished with 1,659 yards and 14 touchdowns, leading the league in rushing. This was his best season with the team, but he still ended his career with the Colts with three Pro Bowls and over 5,000 rushing yards.

    Dickerson is a difficult player to put on this list. While there's plenty Colts fans don't like about him, he still was a major part of the offense for several seasons and earns a top-10 pick.

9. Chris Hinton, OL, 1984-1989

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    Despite how amazing of a career Chris Hinton had, he will always be known as the player who was traded for John Elway.

    Sure, having Elway on the Colts would have been nice, but things turned our alright with Hinton, and the team went on to have another very good quarterback in time. Hinton finished with five Pro Bowl selections while in Indy and was a great versatile blocker.

    Hinton probably always gets messed with for being the guy the Colts got instead of Elway, but his career with the Colts was fantastic, and therefore, he makes the top 10.

8. Marshall Faulk, RB, 1994-1998

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    Marshall Faulk went on to do great things with the St. Louis Rams, but his time with the Colts was quite successful as well.

    In his first year in the NFL, Faulk finished with 1,282 yards and 11 touchdowns, earning the Rookie of the Year award along with a Pro Bowl selection. He went to three Pro Bowls as a member of the Colts and had 5,320 yards and 42 touchdowns.

    Faulk's career ended with the Colts in a trade with the Rams, possibly due to potential holding out for a new contract. It was an unfortunate series of events, but Faulk went on to have a Hall of Fame career.

    What would it have been like to have Manning and Faulk in their primes? Who knows.  However, Faulk's success with the team makes him one of the greats.

7. Robert Mathis, DE/OLB, 2003-Present

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    When it comes to pass-rushers, the Colts had a great one-two combo with Robert Mathis and Dwight Freeney.

    A five-time Pro Bowler, Mathis continues to put up big numbers for the Colts season after season. So far in his career, he has had 91.5 sacks along with 40 forced fumbles.

    Mathis is known for giving quarterbacks nightmares in the backfield. He has stayed relatively healthy throughout his entire career, playing in all but 13 games through 10 seasons.

    At 32 years old, Mathis still has some time to move up this list. As the seventh-best player for the Colts, he's truly one of the greats.

6. Jeff Saturday, C, 1999-2011

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    The man who is known for having Manning's hands on his rear end for a decade, Jeff Saturday is one of the true greats for the Colts.

    During his time with the franchise, Saturday was selected to five Pro Bowls and was named to the All-Decade Team for the 2000s. He was the face of the offensive line for the Colts, despite names like Ryan Diem and Tarik Glenn next to him.

    Understanding what Manning was calling at all times is impressive enough. However, he is also known for actually fighting with Manning in one of the most entertaining sideline fights of all time.

    After one year with the Green Bay Packers, Saturday signed a one-day contract to retire with the Colts, and that is where fans will always remember him.

5. Edgerrin James, RB, 1999-2005

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    Although Dickerson and Faulk went on to have impressive careers elsewhere, Edgerrin James will always be known as the running back with the Colts in Indianapolis.

    During his first two seasons with the Colts, James was named the Offensive Rookie of the Year, went to two Pro Bowls and held the rushing title in both seasons. 

    James finished his time in Indy as the all-time leading rusher for the franchise with 9,226 yards and appeared in four Pro Bowls. He was named to the Ring of Honor in 2012.

    When it comes to running backs, no one is remembered more in Indianapolis than "Edge."

4. Dwight Freeney, DE/OLB, 2002-2012

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    The other part of the pass-rushing duo, Dwight Freeney had an amazing run with the Colts.

    Freeney has the most career sacks in the history of the Colts franchise with 107.5. He was named to seven Pro Bowls with the team and was the AFC Defensive Player of the Year in 2005. He was always known by Colts fans as the crazy defensive player with the dominating spin move that helped him get to the quarterback.

    Things just don't feel the same now that Freeney is with the San Diego Chargers, but his time in Indy won't be forgotten.

3. Reggie Wayne, WR, 2001-Present

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    Even while behind one of the greatest receivers in the history of the NFL, Reggie Wayne found ways to make an impact on this team. 

    Ever since he became the No. 1 option, he's become a truly remarkable player.

    The man on the receiving end of countless passes from Manning, Wayne made his first Pro Bowl in 2006, finishing with 86 catches for 1,310 yards and nine scores. He went on to five consecutive Pro Bowls.

    After an off-year in 2011, Wayne came back and exploded with the arrival of Andrew Luck.  Despite being 34 years old, Wayne finished last season with 106 receptions for 1,355 yards and five touchdowns. 

    In his career, Wayne has been a Pro Bowler six times and had 968 receptions for 13,063 yards and 78 touchdowns.

    The only reason he isn't No. 2 is because of the guy who came before him.

2. Marvin Harrison, WR, 1996-2008

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    Wayne has had a great career with the Colts, but Marvin Harrison is the true No. 1 receiver in Indy.

    Eight Pro Bowls, 1,102 receptions, 14,580 yards and 128 touchdowns make Harrison one of the greatest receivers to ever play the game. 

    He holds countless records, but the big one is between him and Manning. The duo finished with 112 touchdowns—the most from any quarterback to a wide receiver in NFL history.  Harrison also holds the single-season record for catches with 143 in 2002.

    Manning and Harrison is something that will never be forgotten. The two made for so many exciting plays, that it's no question Harrison is the second-greatest Colt to ever play in the city of Indianapolis.

1. Peyton Manning, QB, 1998-2011

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    When it comes to the greatest football player to ever play in Indianapolis, it's got to be Peyton Manning.

    In fact, the argument can be made that he's one of the greatest quarterbacks in the history of the NFL.

    During his time with the Colts, Manning was a 12-time Pro Bowler, four-time NFL MVP, Super Bowl champion and the team's all-time leader in wins, passing touchdowns, passing yards and completions.

    The release of Manning was a sad moment in Indy, but Manning left with grace. After missing the entire 2011 season, he was able to somehow give the team a parting gift in the No. 1 overall pick, Andrew Luck.

    Countless great moments and amazing pre-snap audibles are what will be talked about when discussing Manning, but he will always be remembered for leading his team to a Lombardi Trophy.

    When it comes to Indy's greatest player, there's no one else it could be.

     

    For conversation (and debate) on all things Colts, follow me on Twitter @T_Brookey