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Reggie Wayne still catalyst for Colts, will provide challenge for Miami Dolphins

 

Former UM great Reggie Wayne is having a stellar season, leading the way for surprising Indianapolis.

abeasley@MiamiHerald.com

Bruce Arians calls Reggie Wayne “the pied piper” of the Colts’ otherwise baby-faced group of receivers.

Michael Irvin calls Wayne a sure-fire Hall of Famer.

As for the Miami Hurricanes? They simply call him the most productive pro receiver to emerge from their storied program.

With 12,465 receiving yards in 12 NFL seasons, Wayne not only ranks 16th on the NFL’s all-time list, but also first among those to emerge from the University of Miami. Wayne passed Irvin on that pecking order earlier this year. When he did, the Playmaker heard all about it.

“Absolutely I was aware,” said Irvin, now an analyst on NFL Network. “I am so elated and proud of Reggie Wayne. What did he do? He took the words I gave him and went and surpassed it.

“Any father that talks to his son says, ‘Son, I want my ceiling to be your floor; what I’ve done, I want you to start there and go do great,’ ” added Irvin, who retired in 1999 with 11,904 career yards. “When I talk to Reggie, even though I’m not his father, we’re family from the U. It’s the same thing I tell him: ‘Reggie this is what I did, go beat this.’ So congratulations on beating that.”

Irvin is a Hall of Famer and said Wayne’s body of work should make his protégé a lock to join him in Canton, Ohio. But two weeks shy of his 34th birthday, this is no legacy-padding season for Wayne: He’s having arguably the best year of his standout career.

Wayne leads the NFL in both receiving yards (757) and yards per game (108.1) — despite playing with a rookie quarterback (Andrew Luck). Even more impressive, the Colts have won four of their first seven games and, like the Dolphins, are a surprise contender after a brutal 2011.

Wayne was a free agent after Indianapolis’ dreadful 2-14 season and could have followed Peyton Manning out the door. Instead, he re-signed with the only NFL team he has played for and has been rejuvenated.

“To be honest with you, not really,” Wayne said, when asked if he thought this kind of turnaround was possible. “But once I got to training camp and saw the guys that we had around. ... I felt like we had some good things in place. We had some hungry guys.”

Hungry, yes. But also young.

Both the Colts’ starting tight ends — Coby Fleener and Dwayne Allen — are rookies. (Fleener will miss Sunday’s game with a shoulder injury.) Three of the team’s other four receivers are also in their first years, including Florida International’s T.Y. Hilton.

And yet, the Colts’ passing offense ranks ninth in the league, averaging 266 yards per game.

Wayne’s 54 catches are a big reason why. His signature game came against the Packers, when he exploded for 212 yards on 13 catches, as the Colts rallied from 18 points down to win.

“No better one to follow,” said Arians, the Colts’ interim coach filling in while Chuck Pagano undergoes treatment for leukemia.

Added Dolphins coach Joe Philbin: “[He] still knows how to get open and still makes big plays, but is also a guy that, I think, the quarterback has confidence in.”

Wayne has had success against most everybody at some point — except the Dolphins. In six career meetings, he has never had more than six catches or 70 yards against Miami.

Yet in all but one of those games, Wayne played in the shadow of Marvin Harrison, a likely Hall of Famer in his own right. This year, however, there’s no question who’s the alpha dog in Indianapolis.

And depending on how long his body holds up, Wayne could go down as one of the five most productive receivers in not just UM or Colts history, but in all of the NFL.

While Jerry Rice’s record of 22,895 career yards will likely never be broken, Wayne is just three or four more solid years away from surpassing 15,000 yards — a club that has just four members.

“When it’s said and done, Reggie will have a ring, and he’ll be up there in the top,” Irvin said.

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