- Mike Wells, ESPN Staff Writer
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Go back 12 years, and Wayne, like a lot athletes, had a trophy case and hung footballs on the wall for those special moments in his career. That was a good thought and all, but the touchdown-grabbing Wayne soon looked around and noticed he was running out of space.
“I guess I didn’t think that through,” Wayne said, laughing. “I should have known I was going to catch more than eight touchdowns. My wife looked up and she was like, 'You’re just going to have a wall of footballs.' I had to stop that. Now they’re in a big pile. Every once in a while I go through them and look at them and try to remember that catch. I’ve never been good at that.”
Wayne will have to find some space for the ball he catches for his fourth reception in Monday’s game against the San Diego Chargers.
He's four catches shy of becoming the ninth player in league history with at least 1,000 career receptions. Former Colts receiver Marvin Harrison is third on the list with 1,102 catches.
“When I first got in, I just wanted to feel like I was part of the family,” Wayne said. “You don’t look down 13 years later and expect yourself to still be playing. A thousand catches, that’s not something I ever dreamed of. It’s kind of a weird feeling. It feels kind of weird to talk about it. But I’m happy. I guess that just shows that I’ve been playing for a long time.”
Wayne has caught passes from six quarterbacks and one running back (Joseph Addai) in his career. Peyton Manning leads the way, completing 779 passes and 67 touchdowns to Wayne.
Wayne still remembers his first touchdown catch -- a 43-yarder that bounced out of the hands of Houston Texans cornerback Marcus Coleman; he tried to put a hole in the ground by spiking the ball so hard -- on Sept. 22, 2002.
There’s also Wayne’s 53-yard touchdown catch in the rain of Super Bowl XLI, the favorite of Manning and former coach Tony Dungy, according to Colts.com.
You also can’t forget about Wayne’s game-winning touchdown catch against the Green Bay Packers last season to go with the countless one-handed grabs he's had.
The list goes on and on. Nine hundred and ninety-six long to be precise.
"He came in from day one you could see the talent was there, but his work ethic, his passion for the game, the way he studied and the time that he put in, things that he sacrificed, it was real evident early on," said Colts coach Chuck Pagano, who was on the University of Miami staff when Wayne played there. "Certainly you can’t predict the type of numbers and years because of health issues and all those things, but we knew early on that he was going to be a great player.”
Wayne’s frame of mind of just wanting to be “part of the family” with the Colts is still here today. After 996 receptions, 13,428 yards and 80 touchdowns, Wayne still believes he has to prove himself.
He enters training camp every season wanting to convince the coaching staff that he’s still an asset to the team, not a liability that can be replaced by a younger, cheaper player at his position.
“One thing about it, especially when you get in the latter part of your years, let’s be honest, they’re trying to replace you,” the 34-year-old Wayne said. “I want them to say, ‘It’s not time yet, we can’t replace him yet. He’s bringing this much to the table.’ That’s the kind of attitude I bring to it.
“The thing about this game, I think guys who have played for a long time, I think boredom [sets in] because they keep doing the same thing over and over. I go into it like I’m a rookie. I do everything like I’m a rookie and then go from there.”
Wayne even tells his coaches to treat him like he’s a rookie. That means telling him when he does something wrong.
Offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton doesn’t call out his receivers when they drop a ball during a game. He tells them they’ll be going back to them at some point in the game. It’s a different story when they’re behind closed doors during the film session.
“He understands it’s never personal,” Hamilton said about Wayne. “It’s just constructive criticism. I don’t think there’s a lot you need to say to a guy like Reggie Wayne as far as what he needs to do to catch the football. He works as hard as anybody in this building on a football team at mastering his skill set, mastering his craft. His numbers kind of speak for themselves, speaks for itself as far as his production over the years.”
And that's why Wayne is about to join the 1,000-catch club.