The great #93 @dwightfreeney will be immortalized in our Ring of Honor on November 10 (vs. Dolphins)!— Jim Irsay (@JimIrsay) May 8, 2019
It’ll be fun watching all of those iconic Dwight Freeney ‘spins’ against the Phins, am I right?
But in all seriousness, it begs the question of who’s up next after Freeney in the franchise’s illustrious Ring of Honor.
Here are the top candidates:
Robert Mathis: It’s hard to believe that the franchise’s all-time career leader in sacks (123.0) and forced fumbles (54) was once an unheralded 5th round pick out of Alabama A&M in 2003.
The ‘undersized’, yet speedy pass rusher went on to become a Super Bowl XLI Champion, 1x First-Team All-Pro, 1x 2nd-Team All-Pro, 5x Pro Bowler, and AFC Defensive Player of the Year (2013)—when he led the league with a whopping 19.5 sacks, during his 14 seasons in Indy (2003-16).
Mathis is the clear top candidate on this list because he’s had the best Colts career of any player on it. Aside from Reggie Wayne, one could argue that no Colts non-quarterback has meant as much to the Colts franchise from a leadership perspective as Mathis.
Despite retiring in 2016, the 38 year old has remained heavily involved with the franchise during the last two seasons, serving as a ‘Pass Rush Consultant’ on the Colts coaching staff.
[He’ll likely still be ‘involved’ with developing the Colts young pass rushers as part of his new training endeavor in Indy as well.]
If nothing else, Mathis’ induction gives team owner Jim Irsay the fitting quip, “Freeney and Mathis are right next to each other once again.”
First, on opposing quarterbacks. Second, on the all-time sack list. Finally, in consecutive years being inducted into the Colts Ring of Honor and having their names immortalized on the top of the Lucas Oil bowl right next to one another, perhaps.
Dallas Clark: Always a fan favorite, Dallas Clark used his glove-less hands to catch 427 receptions for 4,887 receiving yards (11.4 ypr avg) and 46 touchdown receptions during 9 seasons in Indianapolis (2003-11).
Those 4,887 receiving yards trail only legendary tight end John Mackey, while his 427 receptions and 46 touchdowns rank 1st among tight ends in franchise history respectively.
Clark became Peyton Manning’s sure-handed security blanket over the middle en route to becoming a Super Bowl XLI Champion, 1x First-Team All-Pro, and Pro Bowler.
He was arguably one of the first prototypes of the modern day NFL tight ends, who tend to specialize in elite catching at the expense of blocking.
Sure, some people will say we’ll always have this weird Peyton Manning Sprint commercial where a younger Peyton infamously whispers, “Clark.” at the end surrounded by angry Dolphins.
However, I like to think that Clark’s biggest contribution to the Colts was his ridiculous 14-yard, 3rd and 5 catch with 3:57 left in the 4th quarter during the 2006 Divisional Round against the Baltimore Ravens.
On that special play, cornerback Corey Ivy was draped all over him; however, Clark made a miraculous one-handed catch, converting the first down, and essentially clinching the game for the Colts—who went on to win an elusive Super Bowl Championship.
Simply put, the 2003 first round Hawkeye lived every bit up to his high draft billing, and the good news is that he’ll maybe be able to read this because ‘Iowa has internet now’.
Tarik Glenn: Perhaps the most underrated star of the “Peyton Manning era”, Tarik Glenn played in a star-studded era of left tackles that included Orlando Pace, Walter Jones, Jonathan Ogden, Willie Roaf, and Tony Boselli.
While Glenn didn’t draw the fanfare like his elite left tackle contemporaries, he did always manage to keep Peyton Manning’s jersey clean, and most importantly, #18 healthy and upright on consistently one of the league’s best offensive lines.
The former 1997 first round pick out of Cal was enormous at 6’5”, 332 pounds, with plenty of power in the run game, but also had the sweet feet of a ‘dancing bear’ in pass protection.
[Yes, Colts fans had to overlook the occasional false start, but the trade-off was worth it].
Glenn was a Super Bowl XLI Champion and 3x Pro Bowler in Indianapolis from 1997-06.
He played in 154 career games for the franchise, starting all of them.
Honestly, of any player on this list, he might be the one that would be the most enjoyable to see inducted—because he was often the most overlooked. The big man was quietly great.
Bob Sanders: Call him ‘The Eraser’, ‘The Hitman’, you name it, but Bob Sanders was a truly special player. He played to knock opposing players out, while still having tremendous speed and instincts to fly all over the field, making plays—even in pass coverage.
Undersized at 5’8,” 206 pounds? Hardly.
He was a human heat-seeking missile patrolling in the Colts secondary.
With Bob Sanders’ bulging biceps backing them up, the Colts defense had a mean streak and a much needed physical identity that helped catapult them to Super Bowl Championship heights upon his return in 2006—becoming the catalyst of their then suddenly surging playoff defense.
It was like having their muscular, weight-lifting big brother show up to the playground fight.
Because of injuries, Sanders’ Colts career was unfortunately cut too short (2004-10), but the former 2004 2nd round pick out of Iowa became an instant fan favorite—playing with reckless abandonment (and no real regard for human life). The Colts destroyer of worlds became one of the greatest defensive players to ever don the horseshoe (seriously, don’t @ me).
Sure, Sanders’ flame may not have burned long, but it arguably burned the brightest on this list as the 2007 NFL Defensive Player of the Year—having also become a 2x First-Team All-Pro during his playing career.
Troy Polamalu. Ed Reed. Bob Sanders.
When fully healthy, Sanders was that type of dynamic All-Pro safety and a truly dangerous weapon for the Colts defense to unleash on opponents—much to their dismay and overall soreness.