Ranking The Top 10 Colts Players of All Time
By: Tyler Ward
Of all the storied franchises in NFL history, the Colts remain at the top of the list. In 1953, the team was founded in Baltimore and remained there until 1983. The team moved to Indianapolis and have stayed there since their move.
In 1958, while in Baltimore, the Colts faced the Giants in what many consider "The Greatest Game Ever Played". It was the NFL's 26th annual NFL Championship game and was played at Yankee Stadium. The game ended in regulation at 17-17 and went into overtime, a first for the league. Running back Alan Ameche scored the game-winning 1-yard touchdown to defeat the Giants, 23-17.
Since the Super Bowl era started in 1967, the Colts are 2-2 in their four appearances. They defeated the Dallas Cowboys in Super Bowl V and the Chicago Bears in Super Bowl XLI.
There have been many players that have donned a Colts uniform, so with that being said, here's the list of the top 10 greatest Colts players of all-time.
10. Art Donovan, Defensive Tackle (1950, 1953-1961)
Donovan first played for the Baltimore Colts in 1950, but the team later folded after the season. He then played for the New York Yanks in 1951, but the team also folded and he went on to play for the Dallas Texans in 1952. Like the teams before, the Texans also folded and Donovan would then go on to play for the second Baltimore Colts team in 1953. He would retire with the team after the 1961 season.
Stats weren't accumulated back then, so they are unknown for Donovan. But, he played for a stellar defense and was elected to five straight Pro Bowls from 1954 to 1958. He was also a member of the Colts' championship teams (1958 & 1959).
Donovan was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1968.
9. Gino Marchetti, Defensive End (1953-1966)
Marchetti played 13 seasons with the Colts and helped them win back-to-back championships in 1958 and 1959. During his tenure in the NFL, Marchetti was considered to be one of the best defensive ends in NFL history.
Marchetti was voted the "greatest defensive player in pro football history" and was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1969.
He was moved to offensive tackle in 1954, but according to Marchetti, it taught him how to beat a blocker. He was moved back to defensive end the next season and made his first Pro Bowl.
In his career, Marchetti was selected to 11 Pro Bowls (1963 MVP) and was a 9-time First-Team All-Pro selection. He was also elected to the NFL's 75th Anniversary All-Time Team and the NFL's 1950's All-Decade Team.His jersey number (#89) was also retired by the Colts organization.
8. Reggie Wayne, Wide Receiver (2001-Current)
Wayne was drafted 30th overall by the Colts in 2001 NFL Draft. Upon being drafted, Wayne was immediately thought to be Marvin Harrison's predecessor. He has lived up to those expectations and then some.
Wayne became the full-time starter in 2003 and he caught 68 passes for 838 yards and 7 touchdowns. His stats would continue to get better.
In 2006, Wayne signed an extension and caught 86 passes for 1,310 yards and 9 touchdowns. He was selected to his first Pro Bowl that season and helped the Colts win their second Super Bowl in franchise history. He caught a 53-yard touchdown in the first quarter of the big game.
His best season came in 2007 when he caught 104 passes for 1,510 yards and 10 touchdowns. As a result, he was selected to his second Pro Bowl.
Wayne's stats are still thriving, as he is looking to become the best wide receiver in Colts history. Entering Week 8, Wayne has caught 721 passes for 9,995 yards and 65 touchdowns. With five more yards, Wayne will become just the 34th receiver in history to have over 10,000 career receiving yards. Over the next few seasons, Wayne will likely move higher and higher on the list.
7. Alan Ameche, Fullback (1955-1960)
"The Horse" was selected third overall by the Colts in the 1955 Draft. The Heisman Trophy winner in 1954, Ameche immediately stepped in as the team's starting fullback. He was named Rookie of the Year in 1955 and was a four-time Pro Bowler (1955-58).
Although he only played six seasons, he's this high on my list because he was just a great player and who knows what he would have done if he had actually played longer.
Ameche is perhaps best remembered for scoring the game-winning 1-yard touchdown in the Colts' defeat of the Giants in the 1958 Championship game. He also scored a 2-yard touchdown in the second quarter. It was also the first overtime game in pro football history.
For his career, Ameche rushed for 4,045 yards and 40 touchdowns. He also caught 101 passes for 733 yards and 4 touchdowns.
6. Lenny Moore, Running Back (1956-1967)
Moore was drafted by the Colts with the 9th overall selection in the 1956 Draft. Moore was primarily used as a running back, but also spent time at wide receiver. With Johnny Unitas at the helm, Moore was considered one of the most dangerous weapons in the league.
The running back averaged at least 7 yards per carry in a season an astounding three times. Even though he was named a running back, he ended his career with more receiving yards than rushing yards. He caught 40 passes in 1957, the first of five straight seasons of at least 40 receptions. His best season came in 1958 when Moore rushed for 598 yards and 7 touchdowns, along with 938 receiving yards and 7 touchdowns.
He was also part of the Colts teams that won back-to-back championships in 1958 and 1959.
For his career, Moore rushed for 5,174 yards and 63 touchdowns - he also totaled 6,039 receiving yards and 48 touchdowns. He was a 7-time Pro Bowler and a 5-time First-team All-Pro selection. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1975.
5. John Mackey, Tight End (1963-1971)
Mackey was taken 19th overall by the Baltimore Colts in the 1963 NFL Draft. He played 10 years in the NFL, 9 of them coming with the Colts.
For his career, Mackey was elected to 5 Pro Bowls and was a 3-time First-Team All Pro. In his time in Baltimore, he caught 320 passes for 5,126 yards and 38 touchdowns. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1992.
In 2000, the Nassau County Sports Commission created the John Mackey award, which is annually given to the best Division 1-FBS collegiate Tight End. Mackey was also inducted into the Nassau County Sports Hall of Fame that year.
In 2008, the NFL Network's Top 10 listed Mackey as the #1 Tight End in NFL history.
4. Marvin Harrison, Wide Receiver (1996-2008)
Harrison was selected by the Colts with the 19th overall pick in 1996. Harrison, one of the most sure-handed receivers in history, spent his entire career with the Colts.
He owns numerous records in the NFL, including the single-season receptions record (143) he broke in 2002 - he beat out Detroit's Herman Moore by 20 receptions to own the record. In 2006, Harrison became just the fourth player in NFL history to record 1,000 receptions. He is also one of just seven receivers to accumulate 100 touchdowns.
Harrison went over 1,000 yards in eight straight seasons (1999-2006). In those seasons, he also accumulated double-digit touchdowns.
Over his career, Harrison was selected to eight Pro Bowls and was a six-time First-Team All-Pro selection. He was also selected to the NFL's 2000's All-Decade Team. He also caught 1,102 passes for 14,580 yards and 128 touchdowns.
3. Raymond Berry, Wide Receiver (1955-1967)
Surprisingly, Berry didn't play much football until he got to Southern Methodist University. He only registered 33 receptions there and was selected in the 20th round of the 1954 Draft by the Baltimore Colts. However, there are gems that late in the draft. Berry would soon become Johnny Unitas' favorite target.
During his career, he led the league in receptions three times and won two championships with the Colts. He was considered to be a tough player and became a full-fledged starter in his second season. He did not miss another game until his eighth pro season.
Berry was selected to six Pro Bowls (1957-61, 1965) and made the all-NFL team from 1958-60. He was known for his preparation and skill and practiced with Unitas daily.
Berry's most notable game came in the 1958 Championship game when he caught 12 passes for 178 yards and one touchdown. The record still stands to this day.
He retired in 1967 with a then-NFL record 631 receptions for 9,275 yards and 68 touchdowns. In 1973, Berry was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. In 1999, he was listed as the 40th greatest player in NFL history, according to the Sporting News.
2. Johnny Unitas, Quarterback (1956-1972)
Unitas came to the Colts in 1956 after being drafted by the Pittsburgh Steelers in 1955. After starting quarterback George Shaw suffered a broken leg in the fourth game of the year, Unitas was put into the game and he never let up. He threw nine touchdowns that season, including one in the season finale that started his 47-game streak of touchdowns passes.
The next season, Unitas played in his first full season as the Colts' starting quarterback. Unitas finished first in passing yards and touchdowns and claimed his first MVP award.
He led the Colts to back-to-back championships in 1958 and 1959, including an upset of the Giants in "The Greatest Game Ever Played". Unitas also claimed his second MVP award in 1959. He would also go on to win the MVP award in 1964 and 1967.
When he left the Colts after the 1972 season, he was predominantly known as one of the best quarterbacks in NFL history. He still holds that honor today and was selected as the best quarterback in history by the Sporting News in 2004.
For his career, Unitas threw for 40,239 yards and 290 touchdowns. He was a 10-time Pro Bowl selection and a 6-time First-team All-Pro selection. His #19 has also been retired by the Colts organization. He was also elected into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1979.
On September 11, 2002, Unitas died suddenly of a heart attack. He is buried at Dulaney Valley Memorial Gardens in Maryland.
1. Peyton Manning, Quarterback (1998-Current)
Go figure, huh?
Manning, arguably the greatest quarterback in NFL history, was drafted by the Colts with the 1st overall pick in the 1998 NFL Draft. The Colts decided on Manning ahead of Ryan Leaf, which looks like it was a good decision.
Among the many Colts records Manning holds, they include career wins, career passing yards, pass attempts, pass completions, and passing touchdowns. He also holds numerous NFL records, including MVP awards (4), consecutive seasons with 4,000+ passing yards, and most seasons with at least 4,000 passing yards. He also ranks third in NFL history in quarterback rating, only behind Steve Young and Philip Rivers. He is also second in consecutive starts, only behind Brett Favre.
Manning was thought to be like Dan Marino and never win a Super Bowl, but finally won one in 2007 when the Colts defeated the Bears, 29-17. The Colts also advanced to the big game last season, but lost to the Saints.
He has also been elected to ten Pro Bowls and is a 5-time First-team All-Pro selection.
For his career (and still going strong), Manning has 52,044 passing yards, along with 379 touchdowns and a gaudy 95.5 quarterback rating. He has also completed 4,403 of 6,785 passes (64.9%).
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