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Two days before Indy’s miserable 2-14 season ended in 2011 and about to become an unrestricted free agent, Wayne packed up his locker, took down his nameplate and spoke somberly to reporters as if his career in Indy was about to end.

The Colts did send many of Wayne’s longtime pals — Joseph Addai, Gary Brackett, Dallas Clark and Manning — packing in March. Jeff Saturday and Pierre Garcon, a receiver Wayne helped groom, signed free agent contracts with other teams, and most figured that with Indianapolis going young and trying to shed big-dollar contracts, Wayne would go somewhere else, too.

That’s when new coach Chuck Pagano, who befriended Wayne when the two were at the University of Miami, made a personal request.

“Basically I told him, I said I don’t want to do this without you,” Pagano said. “I said, `If we’re going to get this thing done and move forward and get back to the winning ways that this organization and certainly our fans in the community are used to, we need you back. I want to do this with you. We all want you back.’”

Wayne had to weigh more lucrative offers from other teams with his passion for playing in front of the fans who chant “Reg-gie, Reg-gie” each week. Speculation focused on New England, Indy’s bitter rival. Andre Johnson, a friend of Wayne’s from the Hurricanes, said Wayne wanted to join him in Houston, too.

After reflecting on Pagano’s words, Wayne turned down the extra money, re-signed with the Colts for three years and $17.5 million so he could help the franchise re-establish itself as a Super Bowl contender and made good on his word.

“This is the journey that all teams want to take,” Wayne said. “This is the approach that we wanted. We wanted to give ourselves a chance.”

He never imagined the twists and turns of this odyssey would go quite like this.

In April, Wayne’s poster-sized photo replaced Peyton Manning’s on the facade of Lucas Oil Stadium. On Sept. 26, Pagano began the first of three rounds of chemotherapy after being diagnosed with leukemia. On Oct. 7, wearing orange gloves to support his ailing coach and leukemia awareness, Wayne capped a 13-catch, 212-yard game by stretching the ball over the goal line with 35 seconds left to give Indy a 30-27 victory over Green Bay.

On Dec. 23, Wayne hauled in a 7-yard TD pass with 4:08 to break a 13-13 tie and give Indy its playoff-clinching victory.

And now, he has a vision to finish off this storybook season the right way.

“It’s a good one, a good dream,” Wayne said. “I won’t tell you the complete ending of it but it’s a good one.”

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