From Johnny Unitas to Peyton Manning and Andrew Luck, the Colts have had the good fortune of having especially noteworthy signal-callers, and in the process have been as influential in any franchise in the steady revolution of the NFL as it increasingly became more of a “passing” league.
But every great quarterback needs a good receiving corps, and the Colts have had their fair share of those, as well.
In fact, each of the aforementioned quarterbacks had the privilege of throwing to some of the best receivers of their respective eras. As such, it is only fair Indy’s wideouts get their just due.
The following is a list of the top five wideouts in Colts history.
5. Jimmy Orr (1961-70)
Orr had already made a Pro Bowl by the time he joined the Colts in 1961, but he would soon become a key target for Unitas opposite Raymond Berry.
While Orr struggled to get acclimated to his new surroundings in his Colts debut, he quickly got up to speed. Orr had 974 yards receiving and 11 touchdowns in just his second year with Baltimore. It was the best statistical season of his career, though the accolades were still to come.
Orr led the NFL in yards per reception (21.7) in 1964, a feat he would later repeat in 1968 at the age of 33. One season later, he was named first-ream All-Pro after going for 847 yards and 10 touchdowns.
Injuries would begin to take their toll on Orr in the final seasons of his career. But he was the perfect sidekick to Berry, and one of the early “burners” in NFL history.
4. T.Y. Hilton (2012-present)
Hilton is still hoping to add to his Colts resume in a contract year in 2020, but he has already cemented his place as one of the greatest receivers in franchise history.
The former third-round pick ranks fourth in Colts history in both total receptions and reception yards, and he ranks second in yards per game.
Hilton established a relationship with Luck right out of the gate. He had 861 yards receiving on 17.2 yards per reception in his rookie season, also hauling in seven touchdown catches. But that was just the beginning for T.Y.
The former Florida International standout became one of the top wideouts in football, rattling off four consecutive 1,000-yard seasons between 2013 and 2016. He capped that run by grabbing 91 receptions for an NFL-best 1,448 yards in 2016.
Hilton also has a pretty decent playoff resume, with the most notable performance coming in the 2014 Wild Card Game against the Kansas City Chiefs. Hilton 13 receptions for 224 yards and a pair of touchdowns, including the game-winning score that completed a 28-point comeback.
It is certainly possible T.Y. could climb further up this list by the time all is said and done, particularly if he and the Colts win a Super Bowl in 2020.
In any case, Hilton has consistently produced throughout the years while battling through numerous injuries. He has earned his place on this list.
3. Raymond Berry (1955-67)
Berry spent the entirety of his 13-year with the Colts, and he was the team’s first real star at the wide receiver position.
The Hall of Famer led the NFL in both receptions and receiving yards in three separate seasons. He also led the NFL in touchdown receptions in 1958 and 1959. In fact, Berry made three consecutive All-Pro teams between 1958 and 1961, and he was named to the Pro Bowl in six of seven seasons between 1958 and 1964.
Berry could not be covered during that stretch. He had an absurd 1,298 yards receiving in 1960, which equated to 108.2 yards per game. Again, this is in 1960, when establishing the run was still considered of vital importance for any good offense.
Well, Berry seemed to defy some of these commonly held notions. He also dominated what many still call the “Greatest Game Ever Played.”
Most football fans have seen the reel of Alan Ameche plunging into the end zone for the game-winning touchdown during the 1958 NFL Championship Game against the New York Giants. But Berry was arguably the MVP of said game, finishing with 12 receptions for 178 yards and a touchdown.
Unitas might not be regarded as one of the best ever had it not been for Berry. The two were also a precursor for another quarterback-receiver duo over 30 years later.
2. Reggie Wayne (2001-14)
Wayne comes up just shy of the top spot on the list, but he was still one of the best receivers of the 2000’s and indeed remained productive in the first few years of the 2010s.
The future Hall of Famer is just shy of the franchise record in both receptions and reception yards, and he also ranks second in receiving touchdowns. Wayne went over the 1,000-yard mark in eight of nine seasons between 2004 and 2012, also nabbing double-digit touchdowns in three of those seasons.
Though Wayne did not have the physical gifts of a Randy Moss or Terrell Owens, he was one of the smartest receivers in the game during his heyday. Not to mention, he was arguably the best possession receiver in football for a number of years.
The former Miami product had exceptional timing coming out of routes and routinely found ways to find holes in the secondary. He made things especially easy for Manning in the intermediate range.
Not to mention, it was Wayne who had the only receiving touchdown of the game for the Colts as they beat the Chicago Bears in Super Bowl XLI.
Realistically, Wayne might be regarded as the best wideout in team history had he not spent the first few years of his career with the guy at the No. 1 spot…
1. Marvin Harrison (1996-2008)
Reggie was terrific. But he was never going to surpass Harrison.
“Starvin’ Marvin” is atop the Colts’ all-time list in every major receiving category, and his 128 touchdowns are by far the most in team history. For context, Wayne—second in touchdown catches—had 82. That’s just how deadly Harrison was in the red zone.
Of course, there is also this tidbit: Manning and Harrison are the most prolific quarterback-receiver duo in league history.
Harrison went for at least 1,400 yards and 11 touchdowns in four straight campaigns between 1999 and 2002. He actually had double-digit touchdowns in every season between 1999 and 2006, making three All-Pro teams during that stretch.
Whether beating defenders over the top or running a picturesque corner route, Harrison’s consistent level of production helped make him one of the greatest receivers in league history, and the best wideout Colts fans have ever seen.