Let's go back in time to 1999. (I'll spare you the singing of Prince lyrics)
For the second straight season the Colts found themselves deciding between the top two players at their position. The year before they had to choose between quarterbacks Peyton Manning and Ryan Leaf, this time it was down to running backs Ricky Williams and Edgerrin James. The Colts had decided to part with Marshall Faulk (trading him to the Rams for 2nd and 5th round picks) and were definitely in need of a running back. Speculation was that the Colts would take Williams, perhaps even trade up in the draft to make sure he fell to them. While most experts saw James as a top ten pick, none predicted that he'd be a top five pick.
The two players were different breeds of running back. Williams was 5-11, 244 pound bruiser and ran a 4.56 40 yard dash. He ran fast and powerful. James was 6-0, 216 pounds and ran a 4.38 40 yard dash - but he was young and raw. He was seen as a better receiver out of the backfield but a risky prospect. He came from a hard life and NFL executives quietly wondered if he would be become distracted by the fame and fortune of being a first round pick.
"With the fourth choice in this draft, the Indianapolis Colts select Edgerrin James, running back, University of Miami."
What? Not Ricky Williams?
How many of you were as shocked as I was when Bill Polian passed on the Heisman Trophy winning, two time All-American running back from Texas? This was an easy one right?
Thirteen years later it's clear the Colts made the right choice. Edge will join the Colts 'Ring of Honor' in Lucas Oil Stadium this Sunday, joining Robert Irsay, Bill Brooks, Ted Marchibroda, Chris Hinton, Jim Harbaugh, the 12th Man, Tony Dungy and Marvin Harrison. It's a no-brainer for Jim Irsay as James was one of the key players that changed a football culture in Indianapolis.
James led the league in rushing as rookie (1,553) and set a franchise record for rushing yards in a season the next year (1,709). He arrived to a team that was 3-13 in 1998 and contributed to the largest turnaround in NFL history when the team finished 13-3 the very next season. He tore his ACL six games into 2001 and lost some of his burst but still piled up the yardage with an amazing ability to gain yards after contact with his forward lean.
James left the Colts following the 2005 season as the team leader in career rushing yards (9,226).
For his career, Edgerrin James ranks as one of the most productive running backs in NFL history. He ranks 11th all-time in rushing yards (12,246), 26th in career touchdowns (91)and 13th in career yards from scrimmage (15,610). He has more career rushing yards than Marcus Allen, Thurman Thomas, Franco Harris, O.J. Simpson and.... Ricky Williams. A trip to Canton should soon be next or, as Brad Wells put it in his article announcing the retirement of James:
Quite simply, if Edgerrin James does not get elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame, burn the place down. It's a meaningless dump if someone like Edge can't get in.
Welcome to the 'Ring of Honor', Edge. Well deserved.
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