Reggie Wayne Experiences a Rebirth with the Reincarnated Colts

Nate Dunlevy@NateDunlevyGuest ColumnistOctober 8, 2012

Wayne executes one of the greatest catches of his (or anyone's) career.
Wayne executes one of the greatest catches of his (or anyone's) career.Brian Spurlock-US PRESSWIRE

Reggie Wayne doesn't lead the NFL in receiving numbers. Then again, he has played one fewer game than most of his peers.

Despite being almost 34 years old (Nov. 17), the venerable wideout leads the NFL in yards per game, averaging 126.5 yards a contest.

The Colts have played just four games thanks to an early bye, but Wayne is tied for fourth in the NFL with 36 catches (nine a game), and is third in total yards, just eight off the pace set by Brian Hartline.

The "old guy" hasn't been doing it with five-yard curls and bubble screens, either. Wayne is tied for fourth in the league with eight catches of at least 20 yards. He's caught five of eight balls thrown at least 20 yards past the line of scrimmage.

I confess; I didn't see this coming.

Wayne's play had visibly declined each of the last two years, but his catch rate and advanced metrics are solid across the board this season.

He's simply defying the rules of what near-34-year old wideouts are capable of. Only 20 players in NFL history have ever had a 1,000-yard season at age 34, and only seven have had a season of 1,200 yards or more.

Wayne is on pace for more than 2,000 yards this year.

Against the Packers, he had the greatest day of his career. His 212-yard outburst honored Chuck Pagano, the man responsible for ensuring he stayed in blue and white for the 2012 season.

Wayne told Yahoo Sports' Michael Silver that Pagano called him to lure him back to the Colts:

I was telling him congratulations, yada, yada, yada, and he said, "Hey – I can't do this without you." He told me, "Take a leap of faith." I've been knowing him for 16 years, and I knew I'd go balls to the wall for him, no matter what. I trusted him. That meant a lot.

His leadership and production have helped elevate the rebuilding Colts to a 2-2 record early in the year. Andrew Luck has certainly benefited from having a reliable target. He's well aware of just how incredible Wayne has been.

After the emotional victory over the Packers, Luck said:

I think the orange gloves were everywhere. I felt like there were eight pairs of those out there on the field. I told him after the game he was the best football player I’ve ever played with. His leadership at halftime, on the field, before the last drive, I think I learned a lot from him from watching him operate. I’m very fortunate and blessed to be on a team with him.

How great has Wayne been this year? His four-game total of 506 yards eclipses any four-game stretch of his career. The five-time Pro Bowler picked up 501 yards over four games in his career-year of 2007 when he led the NFL in receiving yards.

As the other Indianapolis wideouts struggle to get open, it often seems like Wayne is Luck's only option in the pattern. Luck has impressed with a gaudy 1,208 yards passing, but 42 percent of that has come from Wayne. No other single Colt has accounted for more than 17 percent of Luck's passing yards.

This incredible season could go a long way toward boosting Wayne's Hall of Fame chances whenever he does hang up his cleats. He currently stands 20th on the all-time yards list, but he will likely vault six players by the end of the season, including two Hall of Famers. He's also fewer than 70 catches away from the top 10 in that category.

Obviously, Wayne's current pace is completely unsustainable, but it is remarkable to know that he still has it in him to do special things even in the relative twilight of his career.

Quote by Luck courtesy of the Indianapolis Colts (via press release).


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