Jalen Wayne was seven years old when he watched Peyton Manning sling a 56-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter of Super Bowl XLI, a score that propelled the Colts to come home to Indianapolis with a Lombardi Trophy. On the receiving end of the pass was a guy with which he shared a last name: Reggie Wayne.
It was then that Jalen Wayne learned he's, in fact, related to Reggie Wayne. Technically, Jalen and Reggie Wayne are second cousins. But he doesn't think of Reggie Wayne as that.
"I don't want to call him old," Jalen Wayne said, "but he's so much older, I call him uncle."
Jalen Wayne is a wide receiver, just like his uncle. He's among the 300-plus prospects called to downtown Indianapolis this week for the NFL Combine. He just wrapped up his college career at South Alabama, where he caught 152 passes for 1,979 yards with 14 touchdowns.
But he didn't envision a career in football as a kid, even after learning of his Hall-of-Fame-worthy pedigree. He was a basketball player; he didn't start playing football until his senior year of high school. And before he began playing football, he didn't know much about Reggie Wayne.
As soon as he started, though, he locked into watching how his uncle dominated for over a decade with the Colts.
"One of the greatest ever," Jalen Wayne said.
Jalen and Reggie Wayne connected while he was in college, and his uncle has helped him every step of the way since. Reggie Wayne, a Senior Bowl Hall of Famer, prepped Jalen Wayne for what to expect in Mobile earlier this year. And heading into the NFL Combine, Reggie Wayne offered wisdom to his nephew on how to handle a hectic, important week.
"He was just preparing me for everything that was going to happen, everything that was going to come my way and just make sure I was prepared for it," Jalen Wayne said. "... Just be confident and be myself. He told me to have fun with this process and enjoy everything. And when it's time to be a ball player, be a ball player."
Jalen Wayne was listed at 6-foot-2, 202 pounds while at South Alabama, and described himself as a "big, physical, downfield receiver" who can attack and high-point deep shots. He's naturally tough, too, a trait honed in his basketball career and one he feels benefits him on the football field.
"I love to block for running backs," Jalen Wayne said. "I'm a friendly guy with a running back. And then I'm the guy that goes between the hashes and makes all those tough catches that not many guys want to do anymore.
"... I was letting them know in the interviews I'm a low-maintenance, high-performance guy. Not somebody you gotta worry about but when he gets on the field he's gonna do his job every single time and be the same guy every single day."
Jalen Wayne hopes a strong NFL Combine – both in testing and interviews – will lead to an opportunity to make it as a pro, and follow in his uncle's footsteps. Reggie Wayne set a high bar, with 14,345 yards, 82 touchdowns and six Pro Bowls. And once Jalen Wayne gets that shot, he'll start trying to clear the high bar his uncle set during his playing career.
"He's a guy I can look up to and chase as far as record books and stats and all that, so it's good to have him in my corner," Jalen Wayne said. "I told him that my main goal is chasing him when I get in the NFL. That's a good standard to live by."