On Sunday, when the Colts host the Jacksonville Jaguars, they will also host one of the greatest players in their franchise's history. Running back Edgerrin James will return for his induction into the Colts' Ring of Honor. The last time James was in Lucas Oil Stadium for a Colts game, they won 30-17 over the New York Jets to win their second AFC title, with James presenting the championship trophy.
The story of Edgerrin James' arrival is one that has been told over and over again. About how Bill Polian used the fourth overall pick in 1999 on James, taking him over another back, Ricky Williams, who was supposedly the better choice.
Look how that turned out.
James burst onto the scene in his rookie year, helping lead the Colts to the biggest single-season turnaround in NFL history (3-13 in 1998, 13-3 in 1999). He rushed for 1,553 yards and 13 touchdowns in his rookie campaign, along with catching 62 passes for 586 yards and 4 more scores on his way to leading the league in rushing.
He led the league in rushing yards again the following year, gaining a career high 1,709 yards and scoring 13 touchdowns while catching 63 passes for 594 yards and 5 touchdowns. James, in just two years, had become the league's best and most exciting back.
He was on pace to lead the league in rushing again in 2001 when he tore his ACL in week 6. Though he would be very good in the years following that injury, he would never return to the complete dominance that he had before.
After returning in 2002 to play in 14 games and falling just short of the century mark (he finished with 989 yards rushing), James would surpass the 1,000 yard mark in each of the next 5 seasons. In both 2004 and 2005, he rushed for over 1,500 yards.
In 2005, the Colts were dominant. They truly had an edge over every team - and not just because of the Colts' back, who had become known as "Edge" (although he certainly played a huge part of their 14-2 season). But, in their first playoff game, the Colts lost at home to the Pittsburgh Steelers in the now infamous "Vandershank" game. That would be Edgerrin James' last game in the blue and white.
He left as a free agent that offseason and signed with the Arizona Cardinals. In his first two years there, he rushed for over 1,000 yards, and in 2008 helped the Cardinals reach the super bowl.
He finished out his career with the Seattle Seahawks in 2009, but did not have much of an impact at all (he did return to Indianapolis to play that season with the Seahawks, where he received a tremendous reception from the fans).
James was essential to the success of the Colts in the first part of the decade - so much so that owner Jim Irsay gave him a super bowl ring after the Colts won in 2006, even though James wasn't on the team any more.
He truly is a legendary Colt. He was a tremendous locker room presence and great with the media. He was tremendous on the field as well. Putting him in the ring of honor is a no-brainer.
The only real question is whether he will be put into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
And let me just say that he absolutely deserves to be. James ranks 11th in league history in rushing yards, and all but one player ahead of him who is eligible is not in the Hall of Fame (Jerome Bettis - LaDainian Tomlinson is not yet eligible). Edge ranks 18th all time in rushing touchdowns, behind eleven Hall of Famers and three others that are not yet eligible. He ranks 13th in rushing yards per game, behind three current players, which means it is sure to fluctuate. He also ranks 7th in career rushing attempts.
In his career, Edgerrin James rushed for 12,246 yards and 80 touchdowns while averaging 4.0 yards per carry. During his seven seasons in Indy, he gained 9,226 yards and scored 64 of those TDs, averaging 4.2 yards per attempt. In his career in Indy, James led the team in rushing 93 times in the regular season. In those games, the Colts went 69-24 (74.2%). He also had 49 career regular season 100+ yard rushing games with the Colts, and the team went 43-6 in those games (87.8%). They never lost when he topped 200 yards, which happened twice.
An Indianapolis Colts ring of honor without Edgerrin James would not be a ring of honor at all. And on Sunday, he will become the ninth member, joining Robert Irsay, Bill Brooks, Ted Marchibroda, Jim Harbaugh, Chris Hinton, Tony Dungy, Marvin Harrison, and the 12th Man (bet you didn't know I was in the ring of honor, did you?). He becomes the third of the "modern era" Colts, the Colts that dominated the league for years.
Colts fans will forever remember Edgerrin James, the one who gave the Colts an "Edge" for so many years.
What are your favorite Edgerrin James memories, Colts fans? What will you always remember about Edge?