For the first time in 307 days, Reggie Wayne took the field at Lucas Oil Stadium on Saturday night, greeted by a roar of cheers from the home crowd.
The Colts announced their offensive starters, and number 87 went last. As they were getting ready to announce Reggie Wayne, radio announcer Bob Lamey said, "stand by, the roof is about to be blown off." And surely enough, as the longtime Colts receiver ran onto the field, the crowd erupted into cheers and soon after the classic, "Reggie! Reggie! Reggie!" chant. "What an ovation for a guy who is the epitome Colt," Lamey continued.
Reggie was a team captain against the Saints, and he caught two passes in two drives - though neither reception officially counts due to penalties. Still, he got out there with the offense, took his place in the slot, ran routes well, caught the passes thrown to him, took a couple of hits, and got out of there after just two drives. It was a successful return for Reggie.
His coaches and teammates were thrilled to have him back.
"It was tremendous," Colts head coach Chuck Pagano said of having Wayne back. "For him, and anybody that has the opportunity and goes through something like that, especially Reggie at his age, being able to rehab and be back on the football field. You get great football players, guys that love the game like Reggie loves the game. We've got a bunch of them in that locker room that are very, very passionate about football."
"When it gets taken away from you and you have an opportunity to come back, it's a great thing. It's an emotional thing. I know for Reggie it was awesome. For all of us, it was great to see him back out there and get a little burn as we like to call it so that was good."
Quarterback Andrew Luck, who felt beyond terrible after an errant pass led to a torn ACL for Reggie last year, was thrilled to have the future Hall of Fame receiver back to work with. "It was great," Luck said after the game. "I know the fans were excited and I know everybody on the sidelines was excited, and we were excited on the field to have him out there. Good for him to get some touches and get hit I think, and I'm sure you guys could ask him about it and get a better answer. He always has that great look in his eye when he's on the football field. It's very, reassuring might not be the right word, but it's great to play with. It's great to play with guys like him."
The first offensive play of the game for the Colts? An Andrew Luck rollout to the right to Reggie Wayne on an out route - a play clearly designed to go to Reggie right from the start. Though it was called back due to an offsides penalty on T.Y. Hilton, everyone knew the first play of the game was going to Reggie. "I had an inkling from the moment he started working back to get ready, when he came back the first play would go to Reggie Wayne," Luck said. "But I knew sort of set in stone, not set in stone because nothing is ever really set in stone, but I had a really good idea on Thursday night there was a chance of that."
Third string quarterback Chandler Harnish, who of course didn't play with Reggie but still was around the team and the atmosphere Saturday night, also loved Wayne's return. "I tell you what, there was a lot of excitement from the crowd during that introduction phase," Harnish said. "It was great to see him come out, get a couple catches right away and he looked like Reggie as we know him. It was awesome."
Reggie Wayne also spoke to the media after the game, and it was clear how much playing to him meant just by how he prepared when he found out there was a chance. "[Pagano] came to me [Friday] and said we're going to see how you feel in the morning," Reggie said. "I told him cool so I went home and prayed about it, had a real good night sleep, about 12 hours in preparing myself and I couldn't tell you the last time I got 12 hours of sleep."
"I woke up this morning, I saw him, he asked me how I felt, I said pretty good and he said alright, let's see where this thing's at. I finally got that call out the bullpen and I was able to come out and do what I can to help."
Reggie was also very appreciative of the crowd and the ovation he received. "They can always remind you where you stand in their hearts," Reggie said. "I've always loved Indy. They've always showed me nothing but respect, treated me like this was home for me and I just want to do everything I possibly can to show that respect back to them."
The receiver was very happy to get out there for the first time in a long time. "It was good to catch the football and get a real live game under my belt," Reggie said. "There's no way you can simulate that. That's what I said last week. It was an opportunity for me to go out there and there was some real live bullets flying at me so it was good, one down."
The Colts loved having Reggie back, the Colts fans loved having Reggie back, and Reggie loved being back. While the first team had their struggles, the highlight of the night was undoubtedly the return of the fan-favorite Reggie Wayne.