<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p>This week’s focus: FOCUS. On-the-field leaders wanted! Here’s my question for <a href="https://twitter.com/SBNation">@sbnation</a>: <a href="http://t.co/DP2hjWd7xN">http://t.co/DP2hjWd7xN</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/GMCPlaybook?src=hash">#GMCPlaybook</a></p>— Marshall Faulk (@marshallfaulk) <a href="https://twitter.com/marshallfaulk/status/511986521025818624">September 16, 2014</a></blockquote>
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Well, Marshall Faulk has once again asked us a question, and whenever a former Colts running back who actually had a great and very productive five years in Indianapolis (that's right, Jon Gruden, he did) asks us a question, we'd better answer it. This week's question is about which Colts player is the leader that keeps the team together in the midst of adversity.
The Colts are a team with very strong leadership. Guys like Andrew Luck, Reggie Wayne, Cory Redding, Robert Mathis, Pat McAfee, and Adam Vinatieri are among the leaders of the team, and then head coach Chuck Pagano has done a terrific job in the area as well. The Colts have long been a team with strong leadership, and that goes back to guys like Peyton Manning, Jeff Saturday, Gary Brackett, Tony Dungy, and others. These new-era Colts have taken the same emphasis and have many strong leaders, but I feel that perhaps the best answer to the question is a guy who was a prominent figure in the Manning Era but who has stepped up in a much bigger leadership role in the Luck era. And that is wide receiver Reggie Wayne.
The Colts are no strangers to adversity. In 2012, it was the loss of head coach Chuck Pagano for much of the season as he battled leukemia. There was every excuse in the world for the incredibly young Colts who were expected to be among the worst in the league to roll over and lose after they lost their head coach. But that didn't happen, as they went 11-5 and made the playoffs, and a lot of that had to do with the leadership of the team - one of the biggest examples of which was Reggie Wayne. He led by example on the field, playing the game of his life in the team's first game without Chuck Pagano in a massive come-from-behind upset of the Green Bay Packers. Reggie is as close to Chuck Pagano as anyone on the team, so he gave his teammates updates on their coach and stepped up into the role as a veteran leader who the other players respected. While the Colts certainly had other leaders (and Bruce Arians' job isn't to be overlooked, either), I think that without Wayne's leadership the Colts wouldn't have done nearly as well without Pagano in 2012.
Then in 2013, the adversity came to Wayne himself. In week seven he tore his ACL, forcing him to miss the remainder of the season. But again, Reggie was leading - just now he wasn't on the field. He was always the first one in every morning and players saw his desire to get back and that was motivating, but more so Reggie was always around, coaching other players on the sidelines and encouraging them. The adversity came through losing Wayne on the field, but Reggie was still as big of a leader as ever.
This year, the Colts again face adversity through the loss of another team leader, Robert Mathis, for the season with a torn Achiles. And again, the leadership of Reggie Wayne will be crucial.
The Colts have plenty of terrific leaders, and none of them should be discounted. But if we're talking about one leader who has helped in adversity, I think it's Reggie Wayne. From listening to other players and coaches talk about him to the way he's universally respected to his humility to his hard work and great play, Reggie Wayne has really stepped up into a leadership role with these new era Colts, and he's doing a tremendous job both on and off the field.