Former Colts star Wayne has caught coaching bug

May 14—INDIANAPOLIS — Even Reggie Wayne is a bit surprised he's entering Year 3 on the Indianapolis Colts' coaching staff.

It took former head coach Frank Reich four years to convince the former All-Pro wide receiver to return to the franchise for which he played 14 NFL seasons.

There was some thought when Reich was fired during the 2022 campaign, Wayne's second career in the Circle City might be short-lived.

But the future Pro Football Hall of Famer has caught the coaching bug.

Now there's no turning back.

"It's one of those things where it was a rabbit hole," Wayne said Tuesday at the Indiana Farm Bureau Football Center. "I already knew that, right? I know once you jump in it, you're not gonna be satisfied, right? So it's — I'm not satisfied. I feel like I still — I hadn't been to a playoff game yet, as a coach.

"So it's so much stuff that I want to get done. I hadn't had a guy that had 10 (receiving) touchdowns in a season. I hadn't had a guy that made a Pro Bowl. So it's things like — the list never stops."

Wayne has a couple of new pupils in the room this season with the selection of Texas wide receiver Adonai Mitchell in the second round and Oregon State wideout/kick returner Anthony Gould in Round 5.

Mitchell, in particular, is an intriguing match with the six-time Pro Bowler.

The former Longhorn's talent is unquestioned, and he had big-time production in the clutch — catching one touchdown pass in each of the five College Football Playoff games he played at Texas and Georgia.

Now it's all about making sure Mitchell's physical traits translate to the pro game and he's able to put it all together consistently to maximize his on-field potential.

Colts general manager Chris Ballard has no doubt Wayne is the right man for the job.

"I haven't said enough about Reggie and how proud I am," Ballard said during last month's NFL Draft. "I've gotten to know Reggie well, even before he coached here. It's not easy to do what he did. To come in and coach and never really have any experience — and then just to watch the growth of him has been really cool. That's been fun.

"He's turning out to be a freaking ... good football coach, man. Like I always tell Reggie, 'Reggie, they can't do what you did (as a player). They're not you, but what do they do well and how do you reach them?' Yeah, I love Reggie. He's really grown. It's been pretty cool."

True to character, Wayne is understated in assessing that growth.

This is the first time he's entered the offseason with the same offensive scheme in place from the previous year.

His wide receiver group still is young, but Michael Pittman Jr. has taken another step with a rich contract extension in March, and Alec Pierce is entering Year 3 with something to prove and stiff competition to fuel him.

Josh Downs turned a lot of heads as a rookie and is looking to make a leap in Year 2, and veteran Ashton Dulin is returning from a torn ACL that cost him all of the 2023 season.

The familiarity is welcome for Wayne as he prepares to attack the challenge of another new campaign.

"I got a rhythm now, right?" Wayne said. "I got a flow. I came in under Coach Frank, and then all of the sudden Frank was gone. So now you got a new head coach next year. You gotta learn a whole new offense and the way it's running and the way (the new coaches) do things. So this is the first time where I had an offseason where it was the same offense. It was the same nucleus, right?

"So I was able to find a rhythm — find a rhythm here and there, and now I can kind of get a style. I can get a feel of how I want to do things. So I kind of feel better in that aspect, but I still lack sleep."

Wayne vows never to allow coaching to completely overwhelm his lifestyle.

He's putting in the long hours and relentless effort required at the NFL level, but he's making sure to keep a little time for himself. A workout here and there, for instance, will always be high on the agenda.

Just as he did as a player, Wayne has set high goals and won't rest until he meets them.

But he's trying hard to never lose perspective about what he does for a living. And why he's doing it.

"Yeah, I enjoy it," Wayne said of his new profession. "I definitely enjoy it. I mean, this is — I've been around football since I was 7. My dad was a coach. I used to see him throw notebooks and stuff. So it's — I don't want to get to that point.

"But it means something to me. It do. And I enjoy seeing the — seeing guys excel."