As if fighting his emotions weren’t difficult enough for Reggie Wayne on Sunday, he also battled muscle cramps late in the Indianapolis Colts’ dramatic 30-27 victory over the Green Bay Packers on Sunday.
The Colts were playing for their coach, Chuck Pagano, who is hospitalized as he undergoes treatment for leukemia. They were decked out in “Chuckstrong” T-shirts for their coach. The game ball went to their coach. And Wayne, who caught 13 passes from Andrew Luck for 212 yards (including a stellar one-handed catch, seen above and in motion here, on the game-winning drive), gave more than just about anybody to the effort Sunday…which is saying something.
“I’ve got 12 years in the league and gained 12,000-plus yards,” Wayne told Yahoo’s Mike Silver. “[Expletives] aren’t just giving me that. [Green Bay's] Charles Woodson’s one of the top corners out there. I’ve got nothing but respect for him. He plays hard, to the whistle, and he’s a Hall of Famer.
“But today, as a team, we had to give that extra effort. I know I had to sacrifice my body to get it done for Chuck. I was cramping up on that last drive – I never cramp, but I was hurting pretty bad. But I had to give everything I had, because this was too important.”
Wayne has known Pagano since their days 16 years ago at the University of Miami and his performance was particularly personal, right down to his orange gloves — the ones not officially sanctioned by the NFL.
“I found out this week that orange was the color for [leukemia awareness] so I made some phone calls,” Wayne said (via the Indianapolis Star). “I had our equipment guys make some phone calls to try and get some orange gloves. They were able to do that. I wasn’t sure how it was going to go as far as getting fined [for a uniform violation], but I said I would take this one for the team. If they fine me, they fine me.”
NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said there would be no fine to mar Wayne’s day, one that helped Luck’s reputation grow. Wayne has caught 36 passes for 504 yards through the Colts’ first four games and is on pace to finish with 144 receptions for 2,024 yards. (Incidentally, Luck is the first rookie in NFL history to pass for 1,200-plus yards and win at least two of his team’s first four games.)
“I think the orange gloves were everywhere,” Luck said. ” I felt like there were eight pairs of those out there on the field. I told [Wayne] after the game he was the best football player I’ve ever played with. His leadership at halftime, on the field, before the last drive, I think I learned a lot from him from watching him operate. I’m very fortunate and blessed to be on a team with him.”
Wayne said he spoke with Pagano over the phone Sunday night.
“He sounded like the Chuck I’ve been knowing all these years, the same guy who used to talk smack to defensive backs on the practice field [at Miami], and then they’d take it out on us,” Wayne said. “He told me he was happy for us. I said, ‘Nah, man, this is for you.’
“I said, ‘It doesn’t stop here. It keeps going. I don’t know when it stops, but this was for you, and we’ve got to bottle this up.’ He said, ‘Enjoy this for the night, then get ready for the Jets next Sunday.’ That’s exactly what I plan to do.”