Once the Indianapolis Colts selected Peyton Manning over Ryan Leaf in the 1998 NFL draft, it didn't take long for the next personnel controversy to arise in the Cirlcle City. Just one year later, the Colts traded running back Marshall Faulk to the St. Louis Rams for draft picks, prompting the local fan base to explode in indignation. While I understood the concern over losing a future Hall of Famer, I wasn't too worried because the Colts were rebuilding and they were poised to pick one of the two standout backs in the 1999 draft, Ricky Williams of Texas and Edgerrin James of Miami (FL). For the second year in a row, hindsight tells us that the Colts probably got it right, as James went on to become one of the greatest players in Indianapolis's NFL history while Williams had an up-and-down NFL career. For his efforts, James will be inducted into the Colts "Ring of Honor" during the game with the Jacksonville Jaguars on September 23.
At the time of his arrival, I was more than happy to see the Colts bring James to replace Faulk, but the machinations that brought him here were always a little confusing. Most observers felt that Williams was the superior back, but that both would be standouts. To ensure that they snagged one of the two, the New Orleans Saints traded a king's ransom to the Washington Redskins for the fifth overall pick. With the Colts sitting at Number 4, I scratched my head, and still do, about why it wasn't Indy who picked the Saints' coffers. A trade with the Saints would have dropped the Colts to Number 7, just below the Rams, who of course already had Faulk coming on board. At any rate, the Colts got their man again, and James landed in Indianapolis just in time to hitch a ride on the Manning Train.
Oh, and what an adventure they had. James' rookie season saw him lead the league in rushing and the team upswing all the way to 13-3 and a division title. The next year was more of the same, and James maintained his status as the Colts' undisputed ground weapon through his entire tenure. After the 2005 season, James left the Colts as a free agent and hooked on with the Arizona Cardinals. This was accompanied by the Colts drafting of Joseph Addai who immediately stepped into the lurch and contributed to the first Super Bowl title in the city's history. It was cruel irony that James helped make the Colts such a juggernaut and then was jettisoned just before their greatest moment of glory.
There appear to be no hard feelings on either side, though, as James takes his permanent place in Colts lore. Truth be told, he was already there.
Adam Hughes was raised, and still lives, in rural Indiana. He has been a Colts fans since the team arrived in Indianapolis on a snowy morning in 1984. The Blue and White eventually replaced the Chicago Bears as his #1 team, and Super Bowl XLI was a dream come true.
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