Reggie Wayne is 34. He’s played 12 NFL seasons and will be 35 before the end of his 13th.
Moreover, he’s been to six Pro Bowls and has topped 1,000 receiving yards eight times. He is 10th on the NFL’s career receptions list and is unquestionably one of the game’s greatest wide receivers.
Despite it all, his competitive fire hasn’t dimmed by so much as a flicker.
When Wayne reported for the Indianapolis Colts voluntary workouts, which began three weeks ago, he did so with rookie-like determination to build a Hall of Fame legacy.
Although Wayne already has, he’s driven to refine it.
“Just come out and get better. You are never too old or too young to get better,” said Wayne, the elder statesman of the Colts’ young offense. “You want to come out here and gain from last year.”
If Wayne does that, it will not only behoove the Colts’ postseason ambitions, it will propel him significantly higher on the NFL receptions list.
There’s no reason to suspect he can’t, or won’t.
Despite heavily stacked odds against it, Wayne enjoyed one of the best seasons of his career last year. A marked man in a rebuilding offense in the hands of a rookie quarterback, Wayne — at 34 — tallied 106 catches for 1,355 yards and five touchdowns. In the process, he earned his sixth Pro Bowl nod and moved into 10th place on the all-time list receptions list (968).
With another year just like it, or nearly like it, Wayne could ascend as high as No. 6 before the 2013 campaign ends. Randy Moss in ninth place with 982 catches, followed, in order, by Hines Ward (1,000), Isaac Bruce (1,024) and Terrell Owens (1,078) to round out the top six.
As much as Wayne enjoys the assault on the record books, breaking records isn’t his motivation. For him, it’s still about winning and doing everything in the context of team success.
Without the latter, he derives no satisfaction — which is why he embraces this time of year. Particularly with this young team.
Quarterback Andrew Luck, wide receiver T.Y. Hilton and tight ends Dwayne Allen and Coby Fleener are entering their second seasons. The Colts are welcoming a stable of recently drafted rookies, and they have a new offensive coordinator in Pep Hamilton.
So there’s plenty even for a veteran to digest.
“One is learn your new teammates. I’m still learning names,” Wayne said. “Me and the rest of the receivers, we still have a long way to go with Andrew to (have) A-plus quarterback-receiver trust. We are getting there. That’s what this time of year is for.
“Obviously, we have a new offense, so we are here trying to get that together and just enjoy the fellowship, enjoy the camaraderie. It’s fun times. It’s work, but it’s fun.”
One of only a few Pro Bowl-pedigree veterans who were part of last year’s 11-5 playoff team, Wayne is confident the Colts’ can improve on last year’s success. But he takes nothing for granted.
Indianapolis is not only young, it is no longer an overlooked opponent on anyone’s schedule. The Colts are not only projected to make the playoffs, they are expected to make considerable noise when they get there.
Wayne insists the time the Colts invest now could go a long way in determining what exactly their postseason fate will be.
“It’s time for everybody to build that chemistry, not just on the football field but as a brotherhood to get to know each other,” he said. “We have so many new faces, so you get that established first, and then go on the field, get the football part out of the way. It’s fun.
“For the most part, everybody is out there trying to get better, trying to earn a roster spot, trying to do better than we did last year.”