ANDERSON –Reporting day for the Colts' 2012 training camp brought a visual message from wide receiver Reggie Wayne.
Wayne called out the Army Reserves, helped form a convoy and reported to Anderson University. It was a clear message like ones he has used in past camps, and the underlying premise, not to be obscured by the moment, is that it is time to go to work to serve Colts fans.
"These guys are selfless workers," said Wayne as he stood with military personnel headed by. Staff Sergeant Lamont Sullivan of Indianapolis. "They put it all on the line, and that's exactly what we're going to have to do this year. It's serious business. … The Army Reserve, they do a great job of supporting this country. The only thing we (players) have to do is support Colts Nation. If they can do it, a whole country, we should be able to take care on our end."
Wayne is starting his 12th season with the Colts, and he has deployed such tactics in the past. He arrived at the 2006 camp wearing an Edgerrin James jersey to honor a departed teammate. In 2007, he donned camouflaged hunting gear complete with a mask with the notion the club would be stalked following a victory in Super Bowl XLI. Later in his career, the wide receiver arrived in a dump truck wearing a "Wayne Construction" hardhat to symbolize the work ahead.
This year, arriving in one of three Humvees from the 38th Aviation Brigade in Shelbyville, Wayne did not want the moment to be misconstrued. He holds a deep regard for the duty, honor and grit of service personnel, and he wants this year's team to adapt those virtues.
"I don't want people to look at it as a joke, a gimmick," said Wayne. "I fully support our military. I'm taking a page out of their book. I want our team to actually take a page out of their book. They are what you call the 'true heroes.' I wanted to think what we can take in our repertoire that people see outside of football.
"You can't get better than the military. They are selfless. They're definitely there for each other, and they make it happen, no matter what the situation is. What we have to is go out there and make it happen, no matter what obstacles we have in our path. We have to find a way to get around it and keep moving."
Wayne has worked with countless teammates since 2001. Never, though, has he entered a training camp with such dramatic changes. The Colts have 26 rookies in camp and another 13 players with first-year experience. The 90-man roster has only 29 players who ended last season on the active roster. Head Coach Chuck Pagano is new and so are 16 assistant coaches.
Wayne was among many veteran players who toiled with dedication in off-season practice. Teammates were being learned, bonds were being formed and a team began to take an initial identity. Now with camp at Anderson University until August 17, the heaviest lifting yet for the team will occur. It is a critical time as the team forms.
"We're in the phase where we're (reloading) right now, and I was thinking we need to have a whole different mind-set, and that's being able to be there for each other," said Wayne. "One thing about our military people, they're always there for each other and have each other's backs. That's what we have to do. We have to go in there (camp) and play Colts football and, at the same time, protect each other.
"It should be fun. It's (the mind-set) big. Whenever you have full confidence in the brotherhood, it's a positive. Just me being out there knowing my teammates are going be there for me no matter what happens, that's all you can ask for. That's what the hard work was put in for during the off-season. Hopefully, we can turn it on to the field during the season and play Colts football."
Wayne ranks among senior members of the team. In fatigues for a day, he was asked where he ranked among his military entourage.
"I don't know. You have to ask those guys," said Wayne. "I am at the bottom of the barrel. I have to work my way up. I take my hat off to these guys."