Jim Irsay On Reggie Wayne: "My Relationship With Him Is As Close As It Gets With A Player"

Intro: On Sunday, Jim Irsay will watch down from his owner’s box on Reggie Wayne playing a franchise-best 209th career game. What does Wayne’s illustrious career mean to the Colts owner?

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INDIANAPOLIS – In his more than 40 years of being entrenched in professional football, Jim Irsay has come across hundreds of players.

From Irsay's days working in the equipment room with the Baltimore Colts, to today as the owner of the Indianapolis Colts, he holds his players in the highest of regard.

Mention the name Reggie Wayne to Irsay, and that player means something a little different than all the rest.

"Personally, my relationship with him is as close as it gets with a player," Irsay says of Wayne. "I have so much affection for him and his family and for all the things that he's done for our franchise.

"It's a blessing when you end up with a player like Reggie Wayne on your franchise."

Irsay vividly remembers the 2001 NFL Draft in which the Colts would select a player who is expected to play in his franchise-best 209th career game on Sunday.

When the cornerback the Colts coveted in 2001 went off the board late in the first round, Wayne was next up on the "best player available" list. And here Wayne is, 14 years later, still representing the Horseshoe while rewriting the NFL record books.

"I think (Wayne) has top-three hands in NFL history and that's not an exaggeration," Irsay says. "His hands are incredible in terms of catching the football.

"The love our fans have for him is because he is such an outstanding person on and off the field. He is loved throughout the NFL."

Images of Reggie over the last couple of years!

That love for Wayne still resonates today with Edgerrin James.

For James and Wayne, their history dates back to the late 1990s at the University of Miami.

It was James who contacted Wayne a few picks before the Colts selection back in 2001, letting his former college teammate know not to be surprised if he got a call from the '317.'

While some players might be intimidated initially by heading to a college known for producing a wealth of NFL talent, the New Orleans native in Wayne never flinched.

"(Wayne) wasn't your typical freshman," James said. "He came in and he worked.

"He had this thing about him that he wasn't going to back down. That right there always stood out. In college, you're trying to check everybody out and see where their mind's at. Reggie is one of those guys, he wasn't going to back down. That right there, meant a lot to us in our locker room."

James chuckles when looking back on the college Wayne.

No one outworked No. 87 and there was always something about those mitts of his.

Those hands of Wayne have flashed for more than 1,000 catches in the NFL and they dazzled at the U, setting a school record for receptions.

Even though their playing days together ended nearly a decade ago, James and Wayne remain close.

They've talked about what game No. 209 on Sunday will mean.

"For Reggie, we always talk that he's at a point right now where every record means something," said James.

"He's at the point where the end ... 14 years, it isn't like you have another 14 years in you. So I know he appreciates it and it's going to be something that he's going to hold in high regard and he's going to push it even further. He's going to go longer than you probably even expect. You never know. It's all on how hard he keeps working and as the long as the interest is there, you know Reg."

These types of conversations aren't infrequent for James and Wayne.

The two talked after the 2011 season when Wayne was embarking on his first NFL free agency.

There was no shortage of interest in Wayne, but his bond from the top of the Colts franchise on down was the ultimate selling point.

"Reggie is vey fond of Mr. Irsay and the whole organization," James says. "I remember talking to him during free agency. I used to always say, 'It's not the same when you leave.'

"I was happy that he was actually able to stay there and it worked out for him. There's no place like home."

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