Reggie Wayne: I stayed to help Luck build his legacy

Andrew Luck may not be the next Peyton Manning, but like it or not, that's the standard that comes with the job for the Indianapolis Colts' rookie quarterback.Reggie Wayne -- now Luck's favorite receiver after years of connecting with Manning -- thinks that is so wrong.

"It's kind of unfair for Andrew," Wayne told USA TODAY Sports, as the surprising Colts (4-3) prepare for a pivotal game against the Miami Dolphins on Sunday. "Peyton's done so much here. His legacy is so big. Andrew comes here, and everything he does is going to be compared to Peyton. That's not fair.

"That's another reason why I'm glad I stayed, to help him create his own legacy. He's going to have to win some games, win some rings, before he can completely get out of Peyton's shadow. But I think he's on the right path. He's already done some things that Peyton didn't do his rookie year."

Even for Wayne, it's natural to compare a bit. During his 14 seasons with the Colts, Manning guided the franchises to two Super Bowl appearances, winning one, and in addition to setting a slew of records became the first player to win four NFL MVP awards.

Luck's resume covers seven games. But he's off to a decent start. He is the first rookie in NFL history (Manning's 1998 campaign included) to pass for at least 1,500 yards and post three victories in his first six games. His 1,971 passing yards is second-most for a rookie after seven games, trailing only the pace Cam Newton set last season en route to setting the rookie record.

Wayne, the all-pro receiver in his 12th season, leads the NFL with 757 receiving yards on 54 catches. Beyond providing Luck with a dependable target -- as he did for Manning -- he also sees himself as a big brother for the rookie quarterback.

"He's taking everything in stride," Wayne says. "He understands the situation, understands everything that's going on. But it's my job to help him. I'm not going to be here for 14 years to help, but I can help start this thing off. So far, everything's good."

Wayne can't help but notice Manning's revival with the Denver Broncos. He's not surprised. Manning has been on fire in recent weeks, and with 17 TD passes against four interceptions on the season, heads into Sunday's game at the Cincinnati Bengals as the NFL's top-rated passer with a 109.0 efficiency rating.

"So many people were writing him off," Wayne said. "He's like every other athlete. When people write you off, you're going to do everything you can to prove them wrong.

"You knew that mentally he has all the tools. You just needed to see if he could throw. Everybody sees that now. Now it's just a matter of being the football player he's always been. I'm glad he's out there throwing darts, winning games. Same ol' Peyton."

Wayne knows enough about Manning to realize that Denver's offense is probably just scratching the surface of how good it can become when the entire system is installed and the chemistry evolves.

"It's going to take those guys some time to get there," Wayne says. "It took me three to four years to really understand the dude's thought process. No way they're going to get that in three or four months."

Of course, Wayne is on a similar track, developing new chemistry with his own new quarterback -- the kid following in Peyton's footsteps.

"We're still trying to find that niche," Wayne says. "A lot of stuff we're doing right now, we're just doing under off his athletic ability as far as throwing the ball and me just running routes. Hopefully, we time it up. But each week, it gets better and better."

The Colts won't play the Broncos this season to offer a Manning vs. Luck, old-school vs. new-school matchup of quarterbacks ... unless they meet in the playoffs.

Weeks ago, envisioning a playoff matchup would have been absurd. But with the Colts ranking among the NFL's surprises, it's not so far-fetched.
Says Wayne, "Now that would be a good story."

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