INDIANAPOLIS — Two of the greatest players in Indianapolis Colts franchise history are one step closer to Canton.
The Pro Football Hall of Fame today announced its 25 Modern Era semifinalists for the Class of 2021, which includes former Colts greats Peyton Manning and Reggie Wayne, as well as pass rusher Cornelius Bennett.
The next step in the process: today's list of Modern Era semifinalists will be reduced to 18 finalists — 15 Modern Era players and a finalist each in the Senior, Contributor and Coach categories — in January, when they will be presented to the full 48-member Pro Football Hall of Fame Selection Committee during its annual meeting on "Selection Saturday," the day before Super Bowl LV in Tampa, Fla.
The Pro Football Hall of Fame's Class of 2021 will be enshrined Sunday, Aug. 8, 2021, in Canton, Ohio.
The Pro Football Hall of Fame will also be holding its enshrinement ceremony for the Class of 2020, which was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, on Saturday, Aug. 7, 2021. Former Colts great running back Edgerrin James is among those being enshrined on that day.
» Manning, who is widely considered one of the top quarterbacks in NFL history, is by all measures a first-year shoo-in for the Class of 2021. The No. 1-overall pick by the Colts in the 1998 NFL Draft out of Tennessee, Manning played for 18 seasons for the Colts (1998 to 2011) and the Denver Broncos (2012-15), winning two Super Bowl titles, including Super Bowl XLI with the Colts during the 2006 season.
By the time Manning retired from the NFL following the 2015 season, he had broken just about every major record by a quarterback in NFL history, including career passing touchdowns (539), career passing yards (71,940), single-season passing touchdowns (55), single-season passing yards (5,477), total wins (201, including playoffs), game-winning drives (56), comeback wins (45), games with four-plus touchdown passes (35), 4,000-plus-yard passing seasons (14), consecutive seasons with at least 25 passing touchdowns (13) and Associated Press NFL Most Valuable Player awards (5; 2003, 2004, 2008, 2009, 2013).
Manning, whose statue is prominently displayed outside of Lucas Oil Stadium, had his No. 18 retired by the Colts in 2017, when he was inducted into the team's Ring of Honor.
» Wayne last year was one of just two Modern Era nominees to make it to the finalist stage in their first year of eligibility. Since 1970, about 90 percent of all candidates who make it to the finalist stage ultimately have been selected for induction at some point, according to the PFHOF.
One of the greatest receivers in franchise history, Wayne played 14 seasons (2001-14) with the Colts after being selected by the team in the first round (30th overall) of the 2001 NFL Draft out of the University of Miami. In a franchise record 211 games, Wayne totaled 1,070 receptions for 14,345 yards and 82 touchdowns.
A six-time Pro Bowl selection and First-Team All-Pro in 2010, Wayne ranks 10th in NFL history in receptions and receiving yards and is tied for 23rd in receiving touchdowns.
He saved his best performances for the biggest of stages, however, as he caught 93 passes for 1,254 yards and nine touchdowns in 21 career playoff games; Wayne ranks second in league history, only trailing Jerry Rice, in postseason receptions, and ranks fourth all-time in postseason receiving yards.
Wayne, whose long touchdown pass from Manning was a key piece to the Colts' victory over the Bears in Super Bowl XLI, was also a member of the 2009 Colts AFC Championship team. He became the 15th inductee into the Colts' Ring of Honor in 2018.
» Bennett, an Alabama product, was selected by the Colts with the second-overall pick in the 1987 NFL Draft and spent the offseason with the club before he was traded to the Buffalo Bills in a three-way deal that sent running back Eric Dickerson from the Los Angeles Rams to the Colts.
A star pass rusher, Bennett then re-joined the Colts for the final two seasons of his career in 1999 and 2000.
A five-time Pro Bowler and three-time All-Pro, Bennett would go to win two AFC Defensive Player of the Year awards and played in five Super Bowls. In 14 NFL seasons, Bennett collected 71.5 sacks, seven interceptions, 31 forced fumbles, 27 fumble recoveries and three defensive touchdowns — one each via blocked field goal return, fumble return and interception return.
He had a combined eight sacks in his final two seasons with the Colts, playing in all 32 games with 31 starts over that span.