INDIANAPOLIS –Reggie Wayne's second season was the first one in Indianapolis for Tony Dungy.
The coach with a defensive pedigree was joining a Colts team blossoming with offensive talent. A knock on his door by a young player is something that sticks with Dungy to this day.
"I remember in 2002 when I joined the Colts, Reggie came to me and said he felt he could contribute more than he did as a rookie," said Dungy. "He wanted to be part of a receiver group that would help us win. He worked with that in mind and never stopped working."
Wayne came armed that day with 27 NFL receptions and no touchdowns to his name. With Peyton Manning and Marvin Harrison already taking their place among the game's greatest duos, Wayne was not going to be a young talent left behind.
He embarked on six consecutive seasons with increased reception totals, becoming only the third NFL player ever to do so.
As he lines up Sunday, Wayne (976 receptions, 13,159 yards, 79 TDs) needs one scoring reception to become the 11th NFL player to reach both 13,000 career yards and 80 touchdown snares. Three on that list – Jerry Rice, Cris Carter and Steve Largent – have busts at the Hall of Fame.
PLAYERS WITH 13,000 CAREER YARDS /80 TD RECEPTIONS
79* Needs 1 TD to join
Players with 13,000 yards and not 80 TDs: James Lofton* (14,004), Henry Ellard (13,777), Torry Holt (13,382)
Players with 80 TDs and not 13,000 yards: Don Hutson (99), Don Maynard (88), Lance Alworth(85), Hines Ward (85), Paul Warfield (85), Andre Rison (84), Tommy McDonald (84), Irving Fryar (84), Mark Clayton (84), Antonio Gates (83), Art Powell (81). Pro Football Hall of Fame
"He's what an NFL Hall of Famer is, in my opinion," said Antoine Bethea. "He's what every guy coming into this league wants to be. He's going to be one of 11 to reach that milestone."
Tom Moore was around Hall-of-Famers Lynn Swann (click here for acrobatic moment) and John Stallworth (click here for Super Bowl TD reception) in Pittsburgh, and a man who provides praise only when it is earned has effusive regard for Wayne.
"He is just a great athlete," said Moore. "The biggest thing about Reggie is the amount of time, effort and work he has put in to get better and to develop his skills. He is a very special person. He is unbelievable, the hardest working football player you will ever meet."
Practice observers are treated to Wayne snaring one-handed catch-after-catch from the 'jugs' machine that spits footballs out at a rapid clip. Practice viewers see things daily that fans only see on Sundays when Wayne (click here for great catch) makes such catches.
"You watch the game and it's, 'Man, that's a spectacular catch.' Then you watch him in practice, he does that every day," said Bethea. "The work ethic he puts in is special. You don't see that every day. Every organization really doesn't have the honor of saying it has that type of leader."
Wayne's reception chronology from 2001-07 went: 27-49-68-77-83-86-104. Since, he has topped 100 receptions three more times (100, 2009; 111, 2010; 106, 2012), one shy of the NFL record of Wes Welker.
His 1,355 yards in 2012 represented his sixth career 1,200-yard season, tying him for third-most ever. Wayne's eight receptions last week against Oakland extended his NFL record to 64 straight games with three or more receptions.
Wayne's (click here for highlight) workman-like approach outshines any fanfare, though he is a fan favorite. The Colts are 29-12 in his 100-yard games, 56-13 when he scores a touchdown, and his seven seasons leading the team in receptions rank behind a Hall-of-Famer (Raymond Berry) and a future one (Marvin Harrison) for third in franchise history.
"If you talked to him, you'd never know it. He's not a cocky person," said Bethea. "He's not big-headed. He just comes to work and does what he needs to do.
"You can see how he plays on Sunday and works every day, it's easy for him. The way he plays on Sunday is a result of hard work and natural ability."
Count Cory Redding as a former adversary who now regards Wayne as a comrade.
"That's a huge deal, an accomplishment that he will reach. He deserves it," said Redding. "He works his butt off every single day. I've seen it, and I admired it from afar.
"Watching him every day at training camp on the jugs machine, going through his routes and how he prepares, it's no shock to me what he does. There's no better person who deserves it more than him."
The sentiments Redding expresses are matched by one of the game's winningest coaches and an even more sincere individual.
"It will be an awesome accomplishment when Reggie Wayne joins that group. It's certainly elite company, but he deserves to be there," said Dungy. "He's gotten there by not only talent, but hard work. He was a leader in showing younger receivers what they needed to do to succeed in the NFL.
"He's still playing at that high bar he set in 2002 and 2003. I appreciated his toughness and work ethic, and for not wanting to miss game or practice time. He was so dependable. He was a joy to coach. It couldn't be more deserved. I could not be more proud of any person."