INDIANAPOLIS —Peyton Manning. Edgerrin James. Reggie Wayne. Jeff Saturday. Robert Mathis.
All among the greatest to ever play the game of football, let alone for the Indianapolis Colts.
And one would imagine it's more a case of when, not if, they — along with a few other recent Colts greats — are each inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
James, for example, is right on the brink of enshrinement. He was a Modern-Era finalist this year for the second time in three years, meaning he made the Top 15. While James did not make the cut this year — only five Modern-Era players make it from each class — many believe it's only a matter of time until he gets his gold jacket and his bust in Canton.
But what about the rest of the fellas? Let's take a player-by-player, year-by-year look at their Hall of Fame prospects:
• Jeff Saturday, center: Saturday this year was named a Hall of Fame nominee in his first year of eligibility, though he did not advance with James to the semifinalist round. Although it's pretty tough sledding in general for offensive linemen when it comes to the Hall of Fame, one would think Saturday — who went undrafted out of North Carolina and turned himself into a six-time Pro Bowler and two-time First Team All-Pro selection — will, eventually, get in. And you know no one will support his candidacy more than Manning, so that's always a nice person to have in your corner.
• Reggie Wayne, wide receiver:Wayne becomes eligible for the first time in two years, so look for his name to appear among the nominees for the Class of 2020 sometime in September 2019. Wayne teamed up with 2016 Hall of Fame inductee Marvin Harrison to form one of the greatest wide receiver duos in NFL history, and finished his career with 1,070 receptions for 14,345 yards and 82 touchdowns. He currently ranks 10th all-time in receptions and receiving yards, and is tied for 23rd all-time in receiving touchdowns. But Wayne was even greater when it mattered the most; he retired second all-time in NFL history with 93 postseason receptions, while his 1,254 postseason receiving yards were fourth all-time. His most memorable play, of course, was his 53-yard touchdown reception from Manning in the Colts' victory over the Chicago Bears in Super Bowl XLI. The winningest player in Colts franchise history, Wayne is a shoo-in for the team's Ring of Honor, and he should find his way to Canton, too. Like James, he might have to wait a few years, but he'll be in there.
• Peyton Manning, quarterback:It doesn't get any more slam-dunk than this one: Manning will be a first-ballot Hall of Famer when his name first appears as a nominee for the Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 2021. And he won't likely be the only first-ballot selection, as that year's impressive class should also include first-year nominees Charles Woodson and Calvin Johnson. Arguably the greatest quarterback of all-time, Manning retired after 18 seasons with two Super Bowl titles and five MVP awards to his credit. He's the NFL's all-time leader in career and single-season passing yards, career and single-season touchdown passes, 4,000-yard passing seasons, 400-yard passing games, seasons with 25 passing touchdowns, games with at least four passing touchdowns, four-touchdown games in one season and comeback wins, both in a career and in a season. Might as well start getting his ring and jacket size, as well as get moving on his bust, now to save some time for later.• Robert Mathis, edge rusher:Mathis, the Colts' all-time leader in sacks (123), was an absolute master of the strip-sack, specifically, and retired following the 2016 season with 46 of them, which is the most in NFL history. Mathis currently ranks 19th on the NFL's all-time sacks list; of those ahead of him, 11 are already in the Hall of Fame, three (Julius Peppers, Dwight Freeney and Terrell Suggs) were all active players in 2017 and three others have only retired within the past three years. Mathis will first be eligible for the Class of 2022, but he might have to wait his turn a few years before getting in, as DeMarcus Ware (No. 8 all-time with 138.5 sacks), Jared Allen (11th with 136 sacks) and John Abraham (12th with 133.5 sacks) all likely need to get in first.
• Other notes:There will — or definitely *should *— be other Colts greats to get into the Pro Football Hall of Fame within the next decade or so. Adam Vinatieri will go down as the greatest kicker of all-time, but he's still going strong in his mid-40s, while Frank Gore is in the top-five all-time in rushing yards and has expressed interest in returning to a team in 2018. Freeney, meanwhile, is in the same boat: he's currently tied for 17th all-time in sacks (125.5), most of which he spun his way into while wearing the Horseshoe, but he also played last year and could decide to see if he wanted to return for a 17th NFL season in 2018. Remember: a player must be retired for at least five years before he can be eligible for induction.
Then there's Howard Mudd and Tom Moore, each of whom deserve serious looks as the one or two "Contributors" inducted each year. Mudd — a solid guard in his own right with the San Francisco 49ers and the Chicago Bears, earning three Pro Bowl and two All-Pro selections and inclusion on the NFL's 1960s All-Decade Team — was one of the greatest offensive line coaches in league history. He guided that unit for the Colts during pretty much all of the Manning Era (1998-2009), and during his 12 years in Indy, the Colts allowed the fewest sacks in the NFL (218 in 182 games). Mudd's prowess as a player and as a coach has more-than earned him the right to be enshrined in Canton.
Moore, meanwhile, is one of the greatest offensive minds ever. His résumé is just about as long as his list of accomplishments over the years, but, most of all, he helped develop Manning as his offensive coordinator throughout his time in Indianapolis.
And let's go ahead and get longtime Colts play-by-play man Bob Lamey the Pro Football Hall of Fame's Pete Rozelle Radio-Television Award, which is given annually "for longtime exceptional contributions to radio and television in professional football." Simply put, it's nearly impossible to think of a great Colts memory since the team moved to Indianapolis without Lamey providing the soundtrack.