Skip to main content

In Year 3, Colts seeing Reggie Wayne continue to grow as wide receivers coach

The Colts have drafted a receiver in the first three rounds of the NFL Draft in each of Wayne's three years as the team's wide receivers coach. 

It shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone who knows Reggie Wayne, but: He's good at this.

"This" 20 years ago was earning the trust of Peyton Manning on his way to becoming a 14,000-yard, should-be-Hall-of-Fame wide receiver for the Colts. "This" now is putting the Colts' current wide receivers in the best position to succeed as he enters Year 3 as the team's wide receivers coach.

Wayne, prior to the 2023 NFL Draft, was a strong believer in North Carolina slot receiver Josh Downs – then he coached him to breaking the Colts' rookie receptions record. Earlier this year, Wayne and head coach Shane Steichen were "beating the drum for a while" for Texas wideout Adonai Mitchell, who the Colts selected in the second round of the 2024 NFL Draft.

And the Colts, too, entrusted Wayne – who was never a full-time coach before being hired in 2022 – with the development of second-round picks Alec Pierce and Michael Pittman Jr. The team remains confident in Pierce with an eye on how he and Anthony Richardson can work together down the field, while Pittman had over 100 catches and over 1,000 yards in 2023 and received a three-year contract extension in March.

The point is: The Colts have invested plenty into their wide receiver room, and trust Wayne with the development of those players.

"I haven't said enough about Reggie and how proud I am," Ballard said after drafting Mitchell in April. "I've gotten to know Reggie well even before he coached here. It's not easy to do what he did. To come in and coach and never really have any experience – and then just to watch the growth of him has been really cool, that's been fun. He's turning out to be a freaking good football coach, man.

"Like I always tell Reggie, 'Reggie, they can't do what you did. They're not you, but what do they do well and how do you reach them?' I love Reggie. He's really grown, it's been pretty cool."

Not many can do what Wayne did as a player. He was detailed, precise, smooth, tough and dependable. He didn't drop anything. He came up big in the regular season; he came up even bigger in the playoffs. Those reasons are why there are only nine players in NFL history with more receiving yards than Wayne.

But those are also reasons why Wayne can't – and doesn't – treat his receivers like they're him. Pittman and Downs and Pierce and Ashton Dulin and now Mitchell and Anthony Gould are different players than he was.

"He sees what I can do and basically he fills me in on what he thinks I can do best and tells me, if I run a route a certain way, you're better running it this way," Downs said. "I'll take that advice from him and I'll do it. I'm different from Alec, I'm different from Michael, I'm different from AD. So coaching us is not the same, so he has to differ a little bit in our routes."

Still, for those receivers, knowing the information is coming from Wayne – whose name they see every Sunday in the Colts' Ring of Honor at Lucas Oil Stadium – certainly carries some extra weight.

"It means a lot having a guy that's been there, done that already," Downs said. "I just ask him certain plays, how he'd run certain routes, what he sees here and there. Getting his perspective helps a lot because he had a fantastic career. I take all the advice I can get from him and go from there."

Wayne is entering his second season working with Shane Steichen, who opted to keep him on staff after taking over as head coach in February 2023. Steichen described Wayne as "adaptable" in how he coaches to his players' strengths to put them in the best position to succeed on gameday, which is an important part of the job description for any position coach.

"Going into Year 3 for him now, just the progress he's made and everything he does for our football team," Steichen said in March of what's impressed him about Wayne. "You saw the production our receivers had last year with Pittman and Downs leading the franchise for receptions as a rookie was awesome. And then going through the evaluation process, the draft coming up, getting his thoughts and opinions. Obviously he's done it at a high level at this organization. Obviously he knows what a good receiver looks like so it's been great to have Reggie."

Wayne's input was a part of the Colts' decision to draft Mitchell, whose five touchdowns in College Football Playoff games are tied for the second-most all-time. And when Mitchell arrives in Indianapolis this weekend for rookie minicamp, he's excited to work with his new position coach – who happens to also be among the best players in Colts history.

"Just being able to be in a presence with a legend," Mitchell said. "Obviously he played alongside Peyton Manning and Marvin Harrison, so I'll just be able to come in and soak information up like a sponge just knowing that I don't know everything and he knows a lot that I don't know. And just to take my game to the next level, I'm just ready and excited to work with him."

Related Content

Single Game Tickets On Sale Now!

Single Game Tickets On Sale Now!

Our 2024 schedule is set! Secure your seats to all home games at Lucas Oil Stadium now.