INDIANAPOLIS —In November, Reggie Wayne said that he was "starting to get that coaching itch."
So on Monday, Frank Reich decided to give the legendary Indianapolis Colts wide receiver a taste of what he might be in for.
Wayne was out on the field as the Colts began Phase 2 of their offseason workout program, kicking off Day 1 in his role as a volunteer coach working with the receivers and assisting that unit's coach, Kevin Patullo.
Reich said bringing on a guy like Wayne to impart his knowledge on his players was a no-brainer.
"Oh man, Reggie, he's the best," the first-year Colts head coach said. "And sometimes as a coach, when you get a former player that's done what someone like Reggie has done — which few *people have done what Reggie has done — we're always excited. But furthermore, when you actually *coached the guy, it takes it to a whole new level of excitement, because I know the kind of person and the kind of pro that we're getting. I know his knowledge of the game, his leadership on the field — really, with the whole team — but specifically with the wide receiver group can be dynamic."
Indeed, Reich has an intimate knowledge of what Wayne brings to the table, having served as his wide receivers coach in Indianapolis in 2011.
That was Year 11 of an outstanding 14-year playing career for No. 87, all with the Colts, that resulted in a franchise record 211 games played, as well as 1,070 receptions for 14,345 yards and 82 touchdowns; his receptions and receiving yards figures rank 10th in NFL history.
Reich said he's interested in seeing how Wayne — who will be inducted into the Colts’ Ring of Honor on Nov. 18 — takes what made him so successful on the field and is able to relate it to today's crop of Colts wide receivers, which includes Wayne's former teammate, T.Y. Hilton.
"I think Reggie has the maturity to understand that even though he's this guy who has put up these unbelievable numbers, whose career is in the elite category, but can still come in and bring leadership to the room … I always thought the goal of the coaches is that (to) try to make these guys better than I was, you know?" Reich said. "And sometimes that's hard for a player that has done the things that Reggie does, but I think he has that quality about him, that he can bring leadership and bring all of his experiences to the table — all his knowledge about route running — but still, this is about bringing the best out in these players and bringing them leadership, and I'm just really excited about that."
Like Reich, Wayne will be getting his start in coaching with a bit of a humble beginning. After a 13-year NFL playing career as a quarterback with the Buffalo Bills, Carolina Panthers, New York Jets and Detroit Lions, Reich dove into the coaching ranks as an offensive intern with the Colts in 2006, and has since worked his way up.
Wayne, meanwhile, is starting out as a volunteer coach, which might afford him a little more freedom to attend to his other outside responsibilities as he and the team see fit. But he'll still get an up-close-and-personal experience that will allow him to choose whether or not he wants to continue pursuing a career in coaching moving forward.
"Well I think it's an important part of the process for a player," Reich said. "I mean, it's not an easy transition to go from player to coach. I mean, everybody would think it would be seamless, it would be easy, but it's a different deal.
"And, you know, I think when you kind of go the (internship/volunteer) route, it allows the player to make sure, 'Hey, I know I love the game, I know I love being with the guys, but this is a huge commitment. And does it all work, does it all fit?'" Reich continued. "And it gives you a chance to grow into it without that pressure of going all-in right from the start."
Wayne is one of two former Colts players on the team's coaching staff; Robert Mathis, the Colts' franchise leader in sacks and Wayne's former teammate and fellow Super Bowl XLI champion, is in his second season as a pass rush consultant.