Ever since they were founded in Baltimore, the Indianapolis Colts have been one of the most historically important franchises in the NFL. They joined the league in 1970 during the AFL-NFL merger after already winning 3 Championships in 1958, 1959, and 1969. Then, they won the Super Bowl in their very first season in the NFL, before winning another in 2006.
Needless to say, the Colts have had their fair share of superstars both on offense, defense, and even special teams, making a list of the best of them is one of the toughest tasks you can give a fan. That's why today, we're going to honor those who made this franchise what it is today, let's take a look at the top 25 greatest players in Indianapolis Colts history.
Honorable Mentions: Anthony Bethea, Pat McAfee, Mike Curtis, Bubba Smith, Bob Vogel, Alan Ameche, Duane Bickett, Ray Buchanan, Tony Siragusa, Jimmy Orr
25. Ray Donaldson - C
Stats: 244 Games Played, 228 Games Started
Accolades: 6x Pro-Bowl, All-Pro
Championships: 1 (Not with the Colts)
While it's not usual to see centers cracking these kinds of lists, Ray Donaldson was a building block for the Baltimore/Indianapolis Colts for 13 years. He wasn't able to win a Super Bowl with the team, but he made it to 4 Pro-Bowls during his time with the franchise and was their starting center from the ripe age of 23 to 36 years old.
24. Bobby Boyd - CB
Stats: 57 Interceptions, 994 Interception Yards, 5 Defensive Touchdowns
Accolades: 2x Pro-Bowl, 5x All-Pro, NFL Interceptions Leader
Bobby Boyd was one of the most dominant and disruptive defenders in the world during the 60s, leading the league with 9 interceptions in 1965 and anchoring the Baltimore Colts' defense en route to that NFL Championship in 1968. To this day, his 57 interceptions are still tied for the 13th most all time.
23. Gary Brackett - LB
Stats: 707 Total Tackles, 4.0 Sacks, 1 Touchdown, 5 Forced Fumbles, 3 Fumble Recoveries, 12 Interceptions, 23 Pass Deflections
While often overlooked and underrated, Gary Brackett was actually one of the most important players in the Indianapolis Colts' defense for 11 years. Standing at just 5'11'', this undersized and undrafted linebacker made an impact from day one as he knew that he didn't have much room for error. He was a class act and one of the most respected players in the league throughout his career.
22. Marcus Pollard - TE
Stats: 349 Receptions, 4,280 Receiving Yards, 40 Receiving Touchdowns
While Marcus Pollard wasn't the best player in his position during his time with the franchise, his involvement in the passing game paved the way for Dallas Clark to take over and helped the Colts establish their identity. Pollard went undrafted in 1995 and went on to have a season with 47 receptions and 8 touchdowns, the best of his career. He was eventually replaced by Clark, though.
21. Jim Harbaugh - QB
Stats: 26,288 Passing Yards, 129 TD, 117 INT, 58.8% Completion Percentage
Accolades: Pro-Bowl, AFC Offensive Player of the Year, NFL Comeback Player of the Year
Long before he pursued a career in coaching, Jim Harbaugh was actually known as Captain Comeback in the NFL. He had one of the greatest seasons in franchise history in 1995 and was their best quarterback for a long stretch until Peyton Manning came along. His career numbers aren't that impressive, but he led the franchise through some tough times.
20. T.Y. Hilton - WR
Stats: 574 Receptions, 8,849 Receiving Yards, 45 Receiving Touchdowns
Accolades: 4x Pro-Bowl, NFL Receiving Yards Leader
While his career with the Indianapolis Colts has been tainted by playoff failure, T.Y. Hilton has already written his name in franchise history as their best receiver since Reggie Wayne. To be fair, his numbers would've been better if it wasn't for the subpar quarterbacks he's had (minus Andrew Luck, obviously). To this day, he has the 4th-most receiving yards in Colts' history.
19. Andrew Luck - QB
Stats: 23,671 Passing Yards, 171 TD, 83 INT, 60.8% Completion Percentage, 1,590 Rushing Yards, 14 Rushing Touchdowns
Accolades: 4x Pro-Bowl, NFL Passing Touchdowns Leader, NFL Comeback Player of the Year
It's saddening to wonder what could have been of Andrew Luck's career if the Colts have done a decent job at protecting him. He's one of the most talented quarterbacks in NFL history, but his shaky offensive line constantly allowed him to be under pressure, and took some heavy hits throughout his career. He shockingly announced his retirement days before the start of the 2019 season, which led to some jeers and boos from careless fans. He was a class act on and off the gridiron and didn't deserve his career to come to such an early end.
18. Dallas Clark - TE
Stats: 505 Receptions, 5,665 Receiving Yards, 53 Receiving Touchdowns
Accolades: Pro-Bowl, All-Pro
While his work as a blocker was superb, Dallas Clark was even a bigger threat as a receiver, especially in the endzone. He put together a 100 reception, 1,106 receiving yards, 10 receiving touchdown season, which earned him the All-Pro distinction and played a huge part in the Super Bowl-winning team in 2006. He was a true example of durability, as he rarely missed a game except from his injury-riddled 2010 season.
17. Art Donovan - DT
Stats: 138 Games Played, 136 Games Started
Accolades: 5x Pro-Bowl, 6x All-Pro, Hall of Famer
While he also had some brief tenures with the New York Yanks and Dallas Texans, Art Donovan will always go down as a Baltimore Colts legend. He was the first player in franchise history to be inducted into the Hall of Fame and made it to five straight Pro-Bowls during his 9-year tenure with the franchise and he was also inducted into the U.S. Marine Corps Sports Hall of Fame.
16. John Mackey - TE
Stats: 331 Receptions, 5,236 Receiving Yards, 38 Receiving Touchdowns
Accolades: 5x Pro-Bowl, 3x All-Pro, Hall of Famer
John Mackey is a Baltimore Colts legend as he's one of the few players that won an NFL Championship and a Super Bowl with the franchise. His combination of speed, raw power, and athleticism made him a huge threat in the open field, as he proved by averaging 15.8 yards per reception throughout his career. He also became the first president of the NFL Players' Association.
15. Bob Sanders - S
Stats: 307 Total Tackles, 3.5 Sacks, 2 Forced Fumbles, 3 Fumble Receptions, 6 Interceptions, 1 Defensive Touchdown
Accolades: 2x Pro-Bowl, 2x All-Pro, NFL Defensive Player of the Year
If it wasn't for injuries, Bob Sanders could have ended up as one of the greatest defensive players in NFL history. Instead, he could only play in 47 regular-season games during his 6-year tenure with the Colts, but he still made his impact felt every time he set foot on the gridiron, even earning the Defensive Player of the Year honors. Sadly, he could never shake off countless nagging pains and retired with the Chargers in 2011 after just 7 seasons in the league.
14. Lenny Moore - HB/WR
Stats: 5,174 Rushing Yards, 63 Rushing Touchdowns, 364 Receptions, 6,039 Receiving Yards, 48 Receiving Touchdowns
Accolades: 7x Pro-Bowl, 7x All-Pro, NFL Rookie of the Year, NFL Comeback Player of the Year, NFL Rushing Touchdowns Leader, Hall of Famer
Lenny Moore was ahead of his time. His skillset would make him one of the most valuable offensive players nowadays, as his ability to catch passes and pile up yards after the reception was only topped by his talent as a running back. The Colts could line him up anywhere on the field and he'd still deliver. His 111 total touchdowns are second-most in franchise history, trailing just Marvin Harrison.
13. Marshall Faulk - RB
Stats: 12,279 Rushing Yards, 100 Rushing Touchdowns, 767 Receptions, 6,875 Receiving Yards, 36 Receiving Touchdowns
Accolades: 7x Pro-Bowl, 6x All-Pro, MVP, 3x NFL Offensive Player of the Year, NFL Rushing Touchdowns Leader
Championships: 1 (Not with the Colts)
While his best years were with the St. Louis Rams, Marshall Faulk's impact with the Indianapolis Colts is undeniable. As a matter of fact, he's still their third all-time leading rusher with 5,320 yards, as well as the player with the fourth-most rushing touchdowns (42 rushing, 51 total). Had he stayed with the Colts, he would definitely lead them in pretty much every category.
12. Tarik Glenn - OT
Stats: 154 Games Played, 154 Games Started, 1 Recovered Fumble
Accolades: 3x Pro-Bowl
While he didn't need much time or space to thrive, Peyton Manning's clean pocket was often thanks to Tarik Glenn's fine job in his blindside. Glenn made it to 3 Pro-Bowls during his 10-year tenure with the Colts before 'losing the desire to play' and surprisingly retiring in 2006. Manning gets a lot of credit and rightfully so, but Tarik Glenn also deserves his flowers.
11. Raymond Berry - WR
Stats: 631 Receptions, 9,275 Receiving Yards, 68 Receiving Touchdowns
Accolades: 6x Pro-Bowl, 6x All-Pro, 3x NFL Receiving Yards Leader, 3x Receptions Leader, 2x Receiving Touchdown Leader, Hall of Famer
Even though he's not often mentioned amongst the all-time greats, Raymond Berry was one of the best receivers in the game during his prime and one of the greatest players in Colts history. He's still third all-time in receiving yards in franchise history after spending his entire 12-year career with the organization.
10. Edgerrin James - RB
Stats: 12,246 Rushing Yards, 80 Rushing Touchdowns, 433 Receptions, 3,364 Receiving Yards, 11 Receiving Touchdowns
Accolades: 4x Pro-Bowl, 4x All-Pro, NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year, 2x NFL Rushing Yards Leader, Hall of Famer
There were high hopes for Edgerrin James when the Indianapolis Colts drafted him with the 4th pick and immediately signed him to a 7-year, $49-million contract. Needless to say, he lived up to the hype and surpassed all expectations. As of today, he still holds the record for most rushing touchdowns (64) in franchise history despite only playing there for 6 years. He posted back-to-back 1,500 rushing yards seasons as well.
9. Jeff Saturday - C
Stats: 211 Games Played, 202 Games Started, 9 Fumbles Recovered
Accolades: 6x Pro-Bowl, 4x All-Pro
How often do you see centers so high on these kinds of lists? Well, there just wasn't a way that we could keep Jeff Saturday out of the top 10. Known for anchoring the offensive line during the Peyton Manning era, Saturday was an outspoken leader on and off the field. He went from an undrafted free agent waived from the Baltimore Ravens' practice squad to a 6-time Pro-Bowler.
8. Gino Marchetti - DE
Stats: 13 Fumble Recoveries, 1 Interception, 2 Touchdowns
Accolades: 11x Pro-Bowl, 11x All-Pro, Hall of Famer
Back in the day, Gino Marchetti was the most feared and respected man among offensive linemen. There just wasn't a way to get around him and once he had beaten the blocker, it was just over for you. Sadly, the league didn't keep track of most of the stats during his prime, but the fact that he made it to 11 Pro-Bowls should tell you just enough about his dominance.
7. Dwight Freeney - DE/LB
Stats: 332 Total Tackles, 125.5 Sacks, 47 Forced Fumbles, 4 Fumble Recoveries, 17 Pass Deflections, 1 Touchdown
Accolades: 7x Pro-Bowl, 5x All-Pro, NFL Sacks Leader, AFC Defensive Player of the Year
Younger fans may not remember just how much of a huge force Dwight Freeney was in his prime. His signature spin-move made him a quarterback's biggest nightmare and he still holds the Colts record for most sacks (107.5) in franchise history. It's still hard to imagine that the Colts refused to re-sign him and just let him walk away after all he gave the organization over a decade.
6. Adam Vinatieri - K
Stats: 2,673 Points, 599 Field Goals Made, 715 Field Goals Attempted, 83.8% Field Goal%
Accolades: 3x Pro-Bowl, 3x All-Pro
Championships: 4 (1 With the Colts)
We can all agree that it's not usual to see a kicker among the all-time greats, but Adam Vinatieri isn't an ordinary kicker. He's the NFL's leader in career points (2,673) and holds the records for most consecutive field goals made (44), most combined regular-season and postseason games played (397), most career field goals made (599), most career field goals attempted (715) and 19 other records. Obviously, his accuracy took a minor dip during the final year of his career, but he'll still go down as the greatest to ever do it.
5. Robert Mathis - DE/LB
Stats: 527 Total Tackles, 123.0 Sacks, 52 Forced Fumbles, 17 Fumble Recoveries, 1 Interception, 3 Defensive Touchdowns
Accolades: 5x Pro-Bowl, All-Pro
Next to Dwight Freeney, Robert Mathis anchored the Colts' defense for years. He was a huge threat for opposing quarterbacks as he proved by sacking them 123.0 times (which is a franchise record). He led the NFL with 19.5 sacks and cemented his legacy as one of the best to ever do it. Mathis was the leader of their defense for more than a decade and is still tied to the organization.
4. Reggie Wayne - WR
Stats: 1.070 Receptions, 14,345 Receiving Yards, 82 Receiving Touchdowns
Accolades: 6x Pro-Bowl, 3x All-Pro, NFL Receiving Yards Leader
While there's no denying that Peyton Manning is one of the greatest to ever do it, he had plenty of help from Reggie Wayne, who grabbed 76 of his 539 touchdowns. He's still second in franchise history in receiving touchdowns and is a true example of durability, hard-work, and loyalty for a franchise. He's a lock to make it to the Hall of Fame after retiring from the league in 2015.
3. Marvin Harrison - WR
Stats: 1,102 Receptions, 14,580 Receiving Yards, 128 Receiving Touchdowns
Accolades: 8x Pro-Bowl, 8x All-Pro, 2x NFL Receiving Yards Leader, NFL Receiving Touchdowns Co-Leader, 2x NFL Reception Leaders, Hall of Famer
Even if Reggie Wayne was great, not even he compares to Marvin Harrison, one of the greatest scoring threats in the history of football. To this day, he still ranks 5th all-time in receiving touchdowns and leads the franchise in that category as well as receiving yards. Moreover, he received 114 touchdown passes from Peyton Manning, which is the most between a quarterback-receiver duo. Michael Thomas recently took down his record of 143 receptions after 18 years.
2. Johnny Unitas - QB
Stats: 40,239 Passing Yards, 290 TD, 253 INT, 54.6% Completion Percentage
Accolades: 10x Pro-Bowl, 8x All-Pro, NFL Man of the Year, 3x MVP, 4x NFL Passing Yards Leader, 4x NFL Passing Yards Leader, Hall of Famer
Johnny Unitas played a part in 4 of the 5 Championships in franchise history and was their undisputed great player before Peyton Manning came along. He was the first quarterback to ever throw 30+ passes in a season as well as the first to throw for over 40,000 career yards and held the record for most consecutive games with a touchdown (47) for more than 50 years.
1. Peyton Manning - QB
Stats: 71,940 Passing Yards, 539 TD, 251 INT, 65.3% Completion Percentage
Accolades: 14x Pro-Bowl, 10x All-Pro, 5x MVP, 2x NFL Offensive Player of the Year, NFL Comeback Player of the Year, 3x NFL Passing Yards Leader, 4x NFL Passing Touchdowns Leader, 2x NFL Completion Percentage Leader, 3x NFL Passing Rating Leader, Hall of Famer
Well, no surprises here. Peyton Manning isn't only the greatest player in Indianapolis Colts' history, but also one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time. He still holds the record for most passing touchdowns in a season (55), most touchdown passes in a game (7), and most passing yards in a season (5,477). He drew a lot of criticism earlier in his career due to his lack of silverware, but retired with a couple of Super Bowl rings and countless accolades. He's perhaps the greatest thrower of the football ever.