Two Indianapolis Colts all-time franchise greats received some encouraging news as both former running back Edgerrin James and wide receiver Reggie Wayne were named among the fifteen Modern-Era Finalists for the Pro Football Hall of Fame for 2020:
While he left the Colts in free agency just one season before the franchise finally reached a Super Bowl title, James, the 4th overall pick by the Colts in the 1999 NFL Draft out of Miami (Fla.), is the franchise’s career leader in rushing attempts (2,188), rushing yards (9,226), and rushing touchdowns (64) playing from 1999-2005 in Indianapolis.
With the Colts, James was a 2x First-Team All-Pro, 2x 2nd Team All-Pro, 4x Pro Bowler, 2x NFL Rushing Yards Leader, NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year (1999), a member of the NFL’s 2000’s All-Decade Team, and was later inducted into the Colts Ring of Honor.
In 1999, he finished 2nd as a rookie (behind Marshall Faulk) in most scrimmage yards (2,139) and was the leader a year later in 2000, with 2,303 total scrimmage yards.
James ranks 13th among the NFL’s all-time career rushing yards leaders (12,246), and he’s the only non-active running back among the NFL’s Top 16 career rushing yards leaders who is not currently enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame—meaning he certainly belongs.
Along with legendary quarterback Peyton Manning and wide receiver Marvin Harrison, James helped form Indianapolis’ first set of “Triplets”—which went on to have perennial success in the AFC year-after-year among top AFC contenders—featuring a prolific offense.
Meanwhile, those triplets eventually became quadruplets, as another Miami Hurricane, wide receiver Reggie Wayne, was selected shortly after James, with the 30th pick in the 2001 NFL Draft.
Behind Harrison, Wayne ranks 2nd in Colts franchise history in receptions (1,070), receiving yards (14,580), and touchdown receptions (82) respectively—playing from 2001-14 in Indianapolis.
He ranks first in most Colts career games played (211) and most Colts career wins (143).
With the Colts, Wayne was a Super Bowl XLI Champion, 1x First-Team All-Pro, 2x 2nd-Team All-Pro, 6x Pro Bowler, and NFL Receiving Yards Leader—and was later inducted into the Colts Ring of Honor.
Among the NFL’s all-time career receiving leaders, Wayne ranks 10th in receptions (1,070), 10th in receiving yards (14,345), and tied-24th in touchdown receptions (82).
Wayne was the sure-handed, “Mr. 3rd Down” security blanket to Peyton Manning and a great complement on the other side to Harrison—as a reliable star who simply moved the sticks. He was a vocal leader, fan favorite, and helped successfully bridge the gap between the Peyton Manning and Andrew Luck eras of Colts football.
Both former Colts greats are well-deserving: James is in his sixth year of eligibility and has been in this waiting game a while, having been selected as a finalist four prior times—but fallen just short. Meanwhile, this is Wayne’s first year of eligibility.
If I were a betting man, I’d say James has a stronger chance than Wayne this year, given that the Pro Football Hall of Fame has this archaic system—especially among wide receivers where players are expected to “wait their turn”—even if you’re the superior player (see: Marvin Harrison not being a should-be first (or second) ballot Hall of Famer in favor of Andre Reed (and Tim Brown)).
Wayne has to compete among the likes of longtime St. Louis Rams stars, Torry Holt and Isaac Bruce among the fifteen finalists—whereas James is opportunistically the only running back finalist this year—which should work in his clear favor.
According to NFL.com, “The finalists will be presented to the full 48-member Pro Football Hall of Fame Selection Committee during its annual meeting on Selection Saturday,” on Feb. 1, 2020, the day before Super Bowl LIV. The Selection Committee will elect five Modern-Era players for the Class of 2020.”
It sure would be something though if former Hurricane teammates turned iconic Colts, James and Wayne were inducted in the same year—but for both it should be a matter of when, not if.