By TOM JAMES
Leave it to Reggie Wayne to make yet another grand entrance for the start of Indianapolis Colts training camp.
Wayne, the Colts’ Pro Bowl wide receiver, has made it a habit over the years to be one of the last players to arrive for camp. And he’s also made it something of a media event for the various modes of transportation that he uses to show up.
Saturday’s entrance was certainly no exception. And maybe the best yet.
Thanks to an assist from the Indiana University Health, Wayne landed in one of the organization’s Lifeline helicopters. Wearing a black flight suit and accompanied by one of the hospital’s patients, the helicopter touched down around 1 p.m. in one of Anderson University’s auxiliary practice fields.
“We came in style,” the affable Wayne said after exiting the helicopter with his left arm around 20-year old Matt Sercer, who lives near Plainfield and is recovering from a serious farming accident that occurred in December. Sercer was told that there was a chance that he would never walk again.
“My new friend Matt Sercer. That’s my riding buddy. Brought him in with me. He’s part of Colts nation.”
It was somewhat of a poorly-kept secret that Wayne was planning a special way to arrive for this year’s camp. For previous training camps, he had used a cement truck, a large bus and a military Humvee. In recent days, however, several of his current and former teammates had tweeted to be on the look out for something different.
“I also want to thank IU Health, for going ahead and letting me come in style in their Lifeline chopper,” he said.
During his past grand entrances, Wayne often used the occasion to make some sort of statement about his personal and team goals.
“Well, I sat back and thought, ‘We’ve got a pretty good team.’ I really think our team this year is better than last year. And if we don’t hurt ourselves, the sky’s the limit for us,” he said. “I really sat back and thought, ‘Sky’s the limit, sky’s the limit.’ Why not come in through the sky. So IU Health helped me do that. And we’re here.”
Wayne admitted that it’s getting tougher to try and top himself each summer.
“This is definitely number one. I don’t know if you can out do this one. This is tough. But I said that last year, all the other years, so we’ll come up with something,” he voiced. One thing he wanted everybody to know was that he did not try his hand at flying the helicopter. He left that job to the professionals.
“Absolutely not,” Wayne laughed. ”I was just a passenger. You really take things for granted. You think football is hard. I’m sitting up there just in awe just looking at (pilot) Jerome (Brissom) work all the shifts and press all the buttons.
“Those guys got to have A’s in their class. There’s no time for C’s and D’s. It was fun. I enjoyed it. It was a great experience, a little choppy, but that was expected being in a chopper. I enjoyed it.”
MAKING A NEW FRIEND
Wayne said that he was made aware of Sercer’s accident through a friend.
“A buddy of mine brought Matt to my attention, told me his story. Matt’s a farmer. I’m a southern guy. As they say from the hood ‘I don’t know anything about farms.’ I read a story. Matt had an accident on a farm. It was touching,” he recalled.
“A lot of things were not expected of Matt to be able to walk again and things of that nature. But as you can see, he’s here standing with me. Got out the chopper, he walked over. Guys like Matt and stories like Matt, they’re the real heroes. It inspires you to go out there and do great and prove people wrong. A lot of people didn’t think Matt would be able to walk again, and he’s out here moonwalking with me.”
INSPIRATION MOVING AHEAD
Using Sercer’s initial prognosis as an example, Wayne said he’ll use it for motivation.
“If you take last year, we were power ranked 32nd [at the start of training camp]. This year, we set that bar so high. We set the stage so high. There’s still not a lot of buzz about us. We got to prove people wrong, got to show them what we can do and show them what we made out of,” he said.
“We’ve got to bite down through hard times and find a way to prevail. Matt is truly an inspiration to that. I’m bringing him to camp with me to show everybody else what we can do.”
Wayne said that the Colts can’t afford to rest on their laurels after surprising most outside observers with their 11-5 record and wild-card playoff appearance.
“Every year, it’s the same intensity to get better. Nothing more, nothing less. After every day, knowing you gave it everything you had on the practice field,” he admitted. “Your brothers know that too, that you’re there with them. Everything in that pot, you stir all that up, and you come up with hopefully a successful season.”