INDIANAPOLIS – One of the NFL’s most prolific pitch-and-catch tandems heads the local contingent of modern-era nominees for the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s Class of 2021.
That would be Peyton Manning and Reggie Wayne.
Each was instrumental in the Indianapolis Colts’ impressive run through the decade of the 2000s, including the franchise’s first world championship in a quarter century.
Each is among the 130 candidates for the Class of 2021, which ultimately will be determined Feb. 6 in Tampa, site of Super Bowl LV.
Manning, the NFL’s only five-time MVP and MVP when the Colts defeated the Chicago Bears in Super Bowl XLI, is considered a lock to be enshrined in his first year of eligibility. Wayne, one of the most productive wideouts in regular-season and postseason history, is in his second year of eligibility. He advanced to the Final 15 in February.
Other former long-time Colts making the initial cut: center Jeff Saturday, safety Bob Sanders and tight end Dallas Clark. Short-timers: linebacker Cornelius Bennett and defensive end Simeon Rice.
Joining Manning as notable first-year eligible players: cornerback Charles Woodson, wideout Calvin Johnson, offensive lineman Logan Mankins and defensive end Jared Allen.
The preliminary list will be pared down to 25 semifinalists in November, and that will be cut to the Final 15 in January. The Class of 2021 will be determined Feb. 6 by the Selection Committee; I am one of 48 members.
Manning’s resume is daunting: the five league MVPs; four trips to the Super Bowl and world titles with the Colts and Denver Broncos; 71,940 yards and 539 touchdown passes, both 3rd in NFL history; league single-season marks of 5,477 yards and 55 TDs in 2013.
The Colts made Manning the first overall pick in 1998 and he lived up to the expectations. He owns every significant passing record and led the franchise to the playoffs in 11 of the 13 seasons he was on the field. The Colts reached the AFC title game three times and the Super Bowl twice.
Wayne, meanwhile, was a 2001 first-round pick who initially worked as Marvin Harrison’s sidekick before replacing him as the team’s No. 1 receiver. He ranks second to Harrison in franchise history with 1,070 receptions, 14,345 yards and 82 TDs.
In the postseason, Wayne ranks in the top 10 all-time with 93 receptions (93), 1,254 (5th) and nine touchdowns (tied-9th).
Wayne and Manning each was with the Colts for 14 seasons, and Wayne appeared in a team-record 211 games.
The COVID-19 pandemic postponed the August induction ceremonies for the Class of 2020 in Canton, Ohio, until next August. That means there will be a definite Colts’ flavor.
Among the Class of 2020 honorees was running back Edgerrin James.
Full list of candidates (* indicates a finalist from last year):
QUARTERBACKS (8): Drew Bledsoe, Randall Cunningham, Jake Delhomme, Jeff Garcia, Dave Krieg, Peyton Manning, Donovan McNabb, Steve McNair
RUNNING BACKS (17): Shaun Alexander, Mike Alstott (FB), Tiki Barber, Earnest Byner, Larry Centers, Corey Dillon, Warrick Dunn, Eddie George, Priest Holmes, Steven Jackson, Jamal Lewis, Eric Metcalf (also WR/KR/PR), Glyn Milburn (also WR/KR/PR), Lorenzo Neal (FB), Fred Taylor, Herschel Walker (also KR), Ricky Watters
WIDE RECEIVERS (13): Donald Driver, Henry Ellard (also PR), *Torry Holt, Calvin Johnson, Chad Johnson, Derrick Mason, Muhsin Muhammad, Jimmy Smith, Rod Smith, Hines Ward, *Reggie Wayne, Wes Welker, Roddy White
TIGHT ENDS (7): Dallas Clark, Ben Coates, Keith Jackson, Brent Jones, Heath Miller, Jeremy Shockey, Wesley Walls
OFFENSIVE LINEMEN (20): Willie Anderson (T), Matt Birk (C), *Tony Boselli (T), Lomas Brown (T), Ruben Brown (G), *Alan Faneca (G), D’Brickashaw Ferguson (T), Kevin Glover (C/G), Jordan Gross (T), Kent Hull (C), Olin Kreutz (C), Logan Mankins (G), Tom Nalen (C), Chris Samuels (T), Jeff Saturday (C), Chris Snee (G), Brian Waters (G), Richmond Webb (T), Erik Williams (T), Steve Wisniewski (G)
DEFENSIVE LINEMEN (15): John Abraham (DE also LB), Jared Allen (DE), Ray Childress (DT/DE), La’Roi Glover (DT/NT), Casey Hampton (DT/NT), Leslie O’Neal (DE), Michael Dean Perry (DT/DE), Simeon Rice (DE), *Richard Seymour (DT), Justin Smith (DE), Neil Smith (DE), Greg Townsend (DE/LB/DT/NT), Justin Tuck (DE), Kevin Williams (DT), *Bryant Young (DT)
LINEBACKERS (16): Cornelius Bennett, Lance Briggs, Tedy Bruschi, London Fletcher, Seth Joyner, Clay Matthews Jr., Jerod Mayo, Willie McGinest (also DE), *Sam Mills, Joey Porter, Chris Spielman, Takeo Spikes, Pat Swilling (also DE), Darryl Talley, *Zach Thomas, Patrick Willis
DEFENSIVE BACKS (18): Eric Allen (CB), Ronde Barber (CB/S), *LeRoy Butler (S), Nick Collins (S), Merton Hanks (S), Rodney Harrison (S), James Hasty (DB), Albert Lewis (CB), *John Lynch (S), Tim McDonald (S), Allen Rossum (DB), Asante Samuel (DB), Bob Sanders (S), Charles Tillman (CB), Troy Vincent (CB), Adrian Wilson (S), Charles Woodson (CB/S), Darren Woodson (S)
PUNTERS/KICKERS (12): David Akers (K), Gary Anderson (K), Jason Elam (K), Jeff Feagles (P), Jason Hanson (K), John Kasay (K), Sean Landeta (P), Ryan Longwell (K), Nick Lowery (K), Reggie Roby (P), Rohn Stark (P), Matt Turk (P)
SPECIAL TEAMS (4): Josh Cribbs (KR/PR also WR), Mel Gray (PR/KR also WR), Brian Mitchell (KR/PR also RB), Steve Tasker (ST also WR)
You can follow Mike Chappell on Twitter at @mchappell51.