ANDERSON, Ind. —
New Indianapolis Colts defensive end Cory Redding was addressing the media Saturday when a trio of camouflaged Humvees pulled to a stop behind him on Graceland Street.
A total of eight soldiers in fatigues filed out of the vehicles at the front and rear of the line. They formed a tunnel on either side of the Humvee in the middle.
Moments later, veteran wide receiver Reggie Wayne stepped out of the vehicle dressed identically to his escorts.
He stood at attention, gave a quick salute and announced, “Reggie Wayne reporting for duty.”
By then, the media had long since abandoned Redding, who quickly came over to greet the soldiers once his laughter subsided.
Wayne’s antics were meant to get the attention of the media and his teammates, but he said the entire act carried a serious message.
“I don’t want people to look at this like it’s a joke,” Wayne said. “I fully support our military. I’m taking a page out of their book, and I want our team to take a page out their book. (Soldiers) are the true heroes. I thought about what we could take in our repertoire that people could see outside of football. I can’t get any better than the military.
“They are selfless workers. They are definitely there for each other, and they go out there and make it happen no matter what the situation is. And that’s what we have to do. We have to go out and make it happen no matter what the situation is.”
Many are anxious to find out what exactly the situation will be this season in Indianapolis.
The Colts reported to training camp with more than 50 new faces on the 90-man roster. Gone are fan favorites such as quarterback Peyton Manning, center Jeff Saturday, tight end Dallas Clark, running back Joseph Addai and linebacker Gary Brackett.
In their place is a group long on potential and short on experience.
The result has been a mixed bag of expectations from national pundits, ranging from contention for the worst record in the league to darkhorse playoff contention.
New Colts offensive coordinator Bruce Arians said none of that should affect the team as it prepares for the season over the next three weeks at Anderson University.
“We, as coaches and players, have a way of just getting together and putting the board up and have our own expectations,” Arians said. “To win each practice and win each game and let them add them up at the end.
Prognosticators, that’s their jobs. We’ve got so many different talking heads now, it’s nonstop. So anybody can say we’re 10-6 or 1-15, but it’ll all play itself out.”
All eyes eventually will turn to rookie quarterback Andrew Luck.
The No. 1 overall pick out of Stanford has the weight of the franchise’s future on his shoulders. He’ll be compared to Manning, of course, as well as fellow Stanford product John Elway and this year’s No. 2 overall selection, Robert Griffin III.
But if the 6-foot-4 signal-caller is feeling any stress about it all, he’s hiding it well.
“Your life turns very simple,” he said of training camp. “I appreciate that during camp. You really have football to focus on and not much else.
That excites me.”
For now, however, it’s Wayne stealing all the headlines. His military arrival came with the aid of soldiers from the Indiana National Guard and 38th Airbourne Brigade based near Shelbyville, and it had been planned at least once before.
“It came about a couple years ago, but I think the brass upstairs kind of nixed that,” Staff Sgt. Lamont Sullivan said. “So we put it on the drawing board, and we brought it back again.”
Wayne said he hopes his arrival helps set the tone for a serious season ahead.
The Colts’ first public practice will begin today at 1:50 p.m., and training camp wraps at Anderson University on Aug. 17.
“We’re in a phase where we’re rebuilding right now,” Wayne said. “We just need to have a whole different mindset, and that’s being there for each other. One thing about our military is that they are always there for each other and have each other’s backs. And that’s what we have to do. We have to play Colts football, but at the same time protect each other. It should be fun.”