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ESPN’s AFC South “Best of the Decade” Honors - Colts Players

NFL: AFC Divisional Playoff-Indianapolis Colts at Kansas City Chiefs Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Ever since it’s creation in 2002 the Indianapolis Colts have dominated the AFC South, winning the division title nine times the highest in the division.

With the division dominance the Colts have seen there have been some dominant and key players over the past decade.

ESPN recently began looking into each division and the top players and coaches from the last decade. The Colts received plenty of recognition and praise as they managed 7 players on the All Decade Team and even managed runner up in the Coach of the Decade.

Colts Best Player

Andrew Luck, QB

Luck, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2012 draft, replaced Peyton Manning as the Colts’ franchise quarterback. Luck led the Colts to the playoffs in each of his first three seasons in the NFL, including consecutive AFC South titles and an appearance in the AFC Championship Game in 2014. Injuries, which led to Luck’s early retirement at age 29, started to take a toll on him in 2015. He missed 26 games — including the entire 2017 season — because of shoulder, kidney and rib injuries. It was during the 2017 season that Luck questioned whether he would be able to continue his career. Luck shocked the sports world when he announced his retirement during an emotional news conference on Aug. 24, 2019. He finished his career with 2,000 completions, 3,290 attempts, 23,671 yards, 171 touchdowns and 83 interceptions. Luck would likely be the front-runner to be the team’s player of the decade in the next 10 years, too. If only.

Honorable mention: T.Y. Hilton, WR, 2012-present. Hilton, who was also part of the 2012 draft class with the Colts, followed in the footsteps of Reggie Wayne and Hall of Famer Marvin Harrison. Hilton has 8,598 yards, including five seasons of at least 1,000 receiving yards in his eight seasons in the league to go with 45 touchdowns. — Mike Wells

Andrew Luck picking up the Colts best player is an easy choice, after being drafted in 2012 Luck showed exactly why he was taken No.1 overall helping the team to go from 2-14 the season before to 11-5 and a playoff berth. Luck was exactly as advertised coming out of college as a special generational quarterback talent, however injuries started to pile up and Luck missed 26 games between 2015-17 and the injuries eventually caused him to retire early in 2019. Luck brought exactly what the Colts needed after Peyton Manning, an all-time great talent, and it was unfortunate that the Luck-led Colts never reached the heights they were destined to before his untimely retirement.

AFC South Coach of the Decade - Honorable Mention

Chuck Pagano, Colts

Years with team: 2012-17

Pagano was the head coach when the Colts won two of their three division titles during the decade. Pagano, who missed part of the 2012 season while being treated for cancer, went 53-43 in his six seasons as coach. The Colts were perfect in the AFC South (12-0) during the 2013 and 2014 seasons and went to the playoffs in each of their first three seasons under Pagano, including reaching the AFC Championship Game in 2014. — Wells

Chuck Pagano was the head coach for all but one year of Andrew Luck’s tenure with the Colts. The Colts were very productive under Pagano never having a losing record until his last year in 2017 and went to the playoffs three out of the six seasons in which Pagano was head coach. Pagano won the AFC South twice in 2013 and 2014 and was the head coach when the Colts were in the Conference Championship in 2014.

AFC South All Decade Team

QB - Andrew Luck 2012-18

OG - Quenton Nelson 2018-present

WR - TY Hilton 2012-present

WR Andre Johnson 2015

DE/OLB - Robert Mathis 2003-2016

LB - Darius Leonard 2018-present

K - Adam Vinatieri 2006-19

TY Hilton was the Colts WR1 for most of the Luck tenure and remains so with the current team. Hilton has caught 552 balls for 8.598 yards, averaging 15.6 yards a catch, and 45 touchdowns. Hilton has made the Pro Bowl four times in 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2017. He holds franchise records for most yards (1,944) and 100 yard games with 10.

Quenton Nelson has only been in the league for two seasons but he has already established himself as one of the best offensive linemen in the league dominating defensive linemen consistently. Nelson has earned First-Team All-Pro and Pro Bowl honors in both his years in the league and is currently on a 30-game streak without allowing a sack.

Robert Mathis was one of the best pass rushers in the entire league and a dominant force for the Colts for 14 seasons. Mathis played 192 games for the Colts and racked up 123 sacks (1st in franchise history), 604 tackles, 52 forced fumbles, 17 fumbles recovered, 18 passes broken up, 1 interception and 3 defensive touchdowns.

Darius Leonard has also only been in the league for two seasons but has established himself as one of the best linebackers in the league dominating consistently. Leonard earned two All-Pro selections and a Pro Bowl honor in his first two years. Leonard has achieved what almost no other linebacker has in his first two years, he is just the third linebacker since 1982 to produce 200 tackles and 10 sacks in there first two years. In his two years in the league Leonard has amassed 284 tackles (19 for a loss), 12 sacks, 6 forced fumbles, 2 fumble recoveries, 7 interceptions, 15 passes broken up and 1 defensive touchdown.

Adam Vinatieri joined the Colts in 2006 and since has played 14 seasons for the team. Vinatieri is widely called the best kicker in NFL history and rightly so. Vinatieri converted 85.3 percent of all his field goals including 67.3 percent from 50 plus yards and 96.8 percent from point after attempts. Vinatieri posted NFL-record 21 seasons with at least 100 points.