Indianapolis Colts Throwback: Top 10 Players of Peyton Manning Era
Top 10 Indianapolis Colts Players of Manning Era
Picked No. 1 overall in the 1998 NFL Draft, University of Tennessee quarterback Peyton Manning would go on to change the way the game of football was viewed in the state of Indiana forever. Primarily a basketball state before his arrival, the unparalleled level of success experienced by the Colts franchise during the Manning era brought football to the forefront of the public's consciousness and transformed the city of Indianapolis and it's rich sporting heritage into a footballing town.
After relocating from Baltimore in 1984, the Colts struggled during the early years in Indianapolis and managed just five winning seasons in 14 years. Fortunes began to turn in 1997 when Jim Irsay assumed owner responsibilities following the death of his father and assigned Bill Polian to the general manager position. Manning was drafted the following year and the hiring of former Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Tony Dungy signaled the final piece of the puzzle needed to compete at the highest level.
With Manning under center, the Colts won eight division titles and made the playoffs 11 times during his 14 year tenure. They claimed two AFC championships and featured in two Super Bowls, claiming victory at Super Bowl XLI in 2006 over the Chicago Bears.
Several players who featured on the Colts' roster during Manning's time in Indianapolis are set to enter football's Hall of Fame over the coming years and these 10 in particular helped establish the Colts as one of the dominant teams in the NFL for over a decade.
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10. Gary Brackett
Linebacker Gary Brackett spent nine seasons with the Colts and was an ever-present during the most successful period of the Manning era. His 754 career tackles makes him one of just six Colts players to pass the 700 mark and he was voted defensive captain between 2006-10, including both Super Bowl appearances.
Since leaving the Colts in 2011, Brackett has continued to work with the community of Indianapolis and is one of the Colts' best loved former players.
9. Jeff Saturday
Jeff Saturday is the best center in Colts' history and one of the best to ever play in the NFL. His leadership on the offensive line and chemistry with Manning during his 13-year stint in Indianapolis played a huge part in the success of the team.
Saturday was voted to the Pro Bowl five times during his Colts' career and signed a one-day contract with the franchise in 2013 so he could retire wearing the blue and white.
8. Dallas Clark
Dallas Clark was selected with the 24th overall pick of the 2003 NFL Draft and will go down as one of the best tight ends in NFL history. During his nine seasons in Indianapolis, Clark broke several franchise records and is ranked No. 1 in receptions by a tight end with 427 catches and touchdown scores with 46.
Clark also holds several single-season franchise records for a tight end, including most catches with 100 in 2009, most receiving yards with 1,106 in 2009, and his 11 touchdown grabs in 2007 is also a Colts' record.
7. Adam Vinatieri
“Mr. Clutch” Adam Vinatieri is widely regarded as the best place kicker of all time having scored game-winning field goals in two Super Bowls and winning two more during his storied 18-year career. Vinatieri signed with the Colts in 2006 and tasted success immediately with victory at Super Bowl XLI.
In 2013, Vinatieri had arguably his best regular season. He hit a career-high 35 field goals and his 87.5 scoring percentage was among the best in the league. Now a free agent, the Colts will be hoping to retain his services for at least another season as the 41 year old shows no signs of slowing down any time soon.
6. Dwight Freeney
Dwight Freeney was another strong leader on defense during the Manning era, spending a hugely successful 11 years with the Colts, having been picked in the first round of the 2002 NFL draft. Freeney amassed 298 tackles, 107.5 sacks and 44 forced fumbles during his time in Indianapolis. He was voted to the Pro Bowl seven times during his Colts career and made the NFL's 2000 All-Decade Team.
Freeney joined the San Diego Chargers before the 2013 season, but was soon placed on IR for the remainder of the season after just four games.
5. Edgerrin James
Edgerrin James was drafted by the Colts with the fourth overall pick of the 1999 draft and quickly established himself as one of the premier running backs in the league. Rushing for more than 1,500 yards and 13 touchdowns in his rookie season, James was named the Offensive Rookie of the Year and would accumulate more than 1,000 yards in five of his seven years in Indianapolis -- a franchise record.
James also holds franchise records with 9,226 career rushing yards and 64 career touchdowns. He was awarded a Super Bowl ring by the Colts following the Super Bowl XLI victory, despite the fact that James had joined the Arizona Cardinals the previous year. He was voted to the Pro Bowl on four occasions and was inducted into the Colts Ring of Honor in 2012.
4. Reggie Wayne
Still going strong at 35 years of age, wide receiver Reggie Wayne has maintained a remarkable level of consistency with the Colts, breaking the the 1,000-yard receiving barrier eight times during 12 full seasons in Indianapolis. He is second all-time in franchise history with 13,566 yards and 80 touchdown catches and has been voted to the Pro Bowl six times.
Over the past two seasons, Wayne has adopted a strong leadership role on the Colts' inexperienced offense. He has been a safety blanket for quarterback Andrew Luck and has mentored the young receiving corps of T.Y Hilton, LaVon Brazill and Coby Fleener with great effect. After missing the second half of the 2013 season, Wayne will be hoping to return next year as the Colts look to mount a deeper postseason push.
3. Robert Mathis
In his 16th year in the league, outside linebacker Robert Mathis will go down as one of the greatest Colts players of all time. During the 2013 season, Mathis won the league's sack title with 19.5 and was voted to the sixth Pro Bowl of his career. He also broke franchise records for most sacks all-time (Mathis now has 111), most sacks in a single season (19.5), and increased his NFL record of most strip-sacks to 43.
Playing the best football of his career, the 32 year old will be looking to enhance his legend in 2014 as the Colts' defensive leader and all round best player.
2. Marvin Harrison
Wide receiver Marvin Harrison will go down as one of the greatest to ever play his position and looks set to enter the Hall of Fame this year at the first time of asking. Drafted by the Colts in 1996, Harrison's 12-year career was loaded with awards and accolades and his partnership with Manning was arguably the most successful quarterback-receiver pairing in league history.
Harrison holds every franchise record imaginable with 1,102 receptions, 14,580 receiving yards and 128 touchdown catches. He also holds NFL records for most receptions, passing yards and passing touchdowns between a quarterback and receiver. Harrison was voted to the Pro Bowl eight times and entered the Colts' Ring of Honor in 2011.
1. Peyton Manning
Of course, the best player during the Manning era was Peyton Manning himself. He is unquestionably the best player to have ever represented the horseshoe and was the face of the franchise during his 14-year spell in Indianapolis.
He is the Colts all-time leader in career wins, pass completions, passing yards and passing touchdowns. His 13 Pro Bowl selections is second most in NFL history, while Manning was also named AFC Offensive Player of the Year a record eight times. He won the first Super Bowl for the Colts franchise in 36 years and will go down as one of the greatest -- if not the greatest -- quarterback of all time. His five league MVP titles is also an NFL record and four of those came during his time with the Colts.
Manning parted ways with Indianapolis after missing the entire 2011 season due to a long-standing neck injury and signed with the Denver Broncos later that same year. The Colts were fortunate to have the first pick of the 2012 draft and will hope current quarterback star Andrew Luck can establish his own era of success over the next two decades.