Editor's note: YCN contributor Eric Ivie has compiled his list of the 10 greatest athletes for Indianapolis. Peyton Manning won fan poll voting in a landslide with Reggie Miller finishing second. Full results are to the right.
Indianapolis is a sports town, and we've seen a lot of professional athletes in our fair city over the years. Some of them have really touched our hearts, earning them spots as the most beloved athletes in Indianapolis professional sports history.
But who is No. 1? Listed in alphabetical order are your nominees:
Jim Harbaugh (Colts, 1994-97)
Harbaugh is, hands down, my favorite professional athlete who played in Indianapolis. I loved his tenacity and his charisma. The guy never quit, even in one game after having his chin split open on a questionable hit. Before giving way to the Peyton Manning era, Harbaugh gave Colts fans excitement that hadn't previously been felt in Indianapolis.
Dubbed "Captain Comeback" for leading the Colts to so many last-second victories during his four years in town, he stunned the NFL world by leading the 1995 "Cardiac Colts" to the AFC championship game, which ended on an incomplete Hail Mary on the game's final play -- one that still has me in therapy.
Marvin Harrison (Colts, 1996-2008)
A first-round draft pick out of Syracuse, Harrison spent his entire illustrious career with the Colts, rarely missing any action due to injury and spending his time on the field quietly rewriting the NFL history books. He was to Peyton Manning what Jerry Rice was to Joe Montana, and like Rice, he seldom complained. He just worked really hard. Hoosiers loved him for that.
We never really knew what to make of the shooting incidents in Philadelphia that allegedly involved Harrison because that wasn't the Harrison that we knew at all.
Peyton Manning (Colts, 1998-2011)
Peyton Manning was the Indianapolis Colts. He looks bizarre wearing a Denver Broncos uniform, much like Johnny Unitas must have looked bizarre in a San Diego Chargers uniform. Manning's impact on the football field is without question, and he's a lock for the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Off the field, he was constantly on local TV -- in addition to his national commercials and television appearances -- helping bring business to the city. He gave back to the community in a huge way, particularly when it involved kids -- there's an entire children's hospital named for him in Indianapolis, thanks to his financial support.
Manning is humble, smart, charismatic and very successful. His departure from Indianapolis still generates as much heated debate among Hoosiers as when Bobby Knight left Indiana University. On Sundays, you'd think Indianapolis is an eastern suburb of Denver, given all the blue and orange No. 18 jerseys around town.
Reggie Miller (Pacers, 1987-2005)
Miller was to the Pacers what Manning was to the Colts. The guy was cool as a cucumber under pressure, and he had a knack of pulling his team out of the fire at the last possible second, especially when it came to games against the New York Knicks. His eight points in 8.6 seconds against the Knicks in the 1995 playoffs is legendary in Indianapolis.
I don't care much for NBA basketball, but Miller made me care about the Pacers because he was such an exciting player to watch. It was easy for Hoosiers to really like Miller. New Yorkers? Not so much.
Jermaine O'Neal (Pacers, 2000-08)
Once O'Neal arrived in Indianapolis, he quickly became the new face of the Pacers franchise following MIller's retirement. The Pacers were very successful during O'Neal's eight-year tenure, O'Neal had a great sense of humor, and he became a popular guy around town.
Jeff Saturday (Colts, 1999-2011)
Football fans are frequently hard-pressed to name their team's center. It's even more uncommon for that guy to be a fan favorite. But Saturday was known for being the "Peyton Manning of the offensive line" with his smarts and his ability to block. His friendly personality and interest in fan interaction made him a fan favorite. He even starred in a number of TV commercials. Can your center say that?
Anthony "Razor" Shines (Indians, 1984-93)
Razor Shines played parts of four seasons with the Montreal Expos in the early 1980s and spent much of his professional baseball career as a member of the Indianapolis Indians -- the AAA affiliate of the Expos at the time. With just 81 career at-bats in the bigs, Shines probably isn't a name known to many outside of baseball nuts and residents of Indianapolis.
With the Indians, however, Shines was tremendously successful, helping lead the team to five American Association titles and earning the team's MVP honor in 1984. His outgoing personality and regular interaction with fans, combined with his service to the community, made him a cult figure in his time in the city.
Tony Siragusa (Colts, 1990-96)
"Goose" was an integral part of the Colts defensive line, and he had a heart and a sense of humor as big as his 6-foot-3, 340-pound body. He personified the gritty, hard-working team that the Colts were back in those years, becoming an NFL star after signing with the Colts as an undrafted free agent out of Pittsburgh. It wasn't uncommon to see Siragusa out on the town in Broad Ripple, either, where he was always receptive to fans who wanted to shake his hand and talk football.
Rik Smits (Pacers, 1988-2000)
The 7-foot-4 "Dunkin' Dutchman", a No. 2 overall in the 1988 NBA draft, went on to play his entire NBA career in Indianapolis. The center anchored a very talented and successful Pacers team in the mid- to late-1990s and became a fan favorite in the process.
Reggie Wayne (Colts, 2001-present)
Wayne is a quiet, unassuming guy who was half of an absolutely lethal wide receiver tandem when Marvin Harrison still played, and who now anchors the next generation of receivers in Indianapolis. Entering his 13th season as a Colt, Wayne has only missed three games in his career and has eight 1,000-yard seasons.
When the Colts cleaned house following the 2011 campaigns, fans fretted that Wayne would be among the casualties, but the city breathed a sigh of relief when No. 87 stayed in town.
Now you decide -- who is the greatest athlete the City of Indianapolis has ever known?
The author is a resident of central Indiana.
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