The Indianapolis Colts have a rich history of legendary players, especially under center. Since the days of the Baltimore Colts in 1953, the franchise is all about winning and being strong at the most important positions.
This trend has continued today. After one year of Jacoby Brissett, the Colts decided that this was not their best path to a championship. They added veteran Philip Rivers to run the show and the AFC was put on notice.
Rivers is a great quarterback but he is obviously known for his work with the San Diego/Los Angeles Chargers. Here are five all time Colts that are known for their work with the franchise. This was a difficult list to cut to five. It is important to recognize players like John Mackey, Reggie Wayne, and Dwight Freeney as honorable mentions.
5. Gino Marchetti, DE
Marchetti was selected in the second round (14th overall) of the 1952 NFL draft by the New York Yanks. Prior to his rookie season, the Yanks became the Dallas Texans. In 1953, the Baltimore Colts took over and their 26-year old defensive end was ready to become an all time great.
In 1954, Marchetti was selected to his first Pro Bowl. He would go on to make 11 straight until 1964. He was a 10-time All-Pro selection and was named to the First Team nine times. Marchetti is not only one of the best players in Colts’ history, he is a top defensive end of all time.
The NFL enshrined Marchetti in the Hall of Fame in 1972. He was a member of the NFL’s 1950’s All-Decade Team. Marchetti also found himself featured on the NFL’s 50th, 75th, and 100th Anniversary All-Time Teams.
4. Raymond Berry, WR
Berry was a dominant receiver in Baltimore way before throwing the ball reached it’s prime. He was selected in the 20th round in the 2954 NFL Draft and was considered a long shot to make the team. Well it was a good thing he did.
Berry was used sparingly throughout his rookie season before being cemented into a starting role in 1956. He helped the Colts win back-to-back NFL Championships in 1958 and 1959. He was selected as a First Team All-Pro member in both seasons. In 1959, Berry led the NFL in receptions (66), receiving yards (959), and receiving touchdowns (14).
The six-time Pro Bowler led the league in receptions and receiving yards three times each. Berry was the touchdown king twice as well. Berry was the Colts all time receiving leader for many years and is currently third on the list.
3. Marvin Harrison, WR
The reason that Berry is not considered the best receiver in team history is because of this man. Harrison was selected in the first round of the 1996 NFL Draft out of Syracuse. He spent his entire 13-year career with the Colts and put up some incredible numbers.
As a rookie, Harrison caught eight touchdowns but it took three years for him to turn into one of the best in the league. In 1999, Harrison burst onto the scene and began his streak of eight straight Pro Bowl appearances. He finished the season with 115 catches for 1,663 and 12 touchdowns. This began a legendary four-year stretch where Harrison went over 100 catches, 1,400 yards, and 10 touchdowns.
In 2002, Harrison put up one of the best seasons ever by a wide receiver. He led the league with 1,722 yards and caught 11 touchdowns. Harrison set the single-season reception record with 143. This record stood up until last season when it was broken by New Orleans Saints’ receiver Michael Thomas.
In the prime of his career, Harrison put up 1,000 yards and 10 or more touchdowns for eight straight years. He was the No. 1 option for the Colts during their championship years. He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 2016 where he will be remembered as one of the best receivers of all time.
2. Johnny Unitas, QB
This list could have gone many ways but the top two are set in stone. It begins with Unitas. The Golden Arm was a member of the Colts from 1956-1972 and built a legendary career.
In just his second season, Unitas became a top quarterback in the league. The 10-time Pro Bowler was named MVP three times, First Team All-Pro five times, and Second Team All-Pro three times. Unitas led the league in completions three times, passing yards four times, and passing touchdowns three times. He finished his Colts career with 287 touchdowns.
Unitas did not just have the big numbers, he was a winner. With Unitas under center, the Colts won three NFL Championships and Super Bowl V. This includes back-to-back NFL titles in 1958 and 1959. Unitas set the record for most consecutive games with a touchdown pass. The record stretch from 1956-1960. It stood until it was broken in 2012 by Drew Brees.
The Colts retired Unitas’ No. 19 to make sure that it will never be worn by any member of the franchise again. He was apart of the NFL’s 1960’s All-Decade team.
1. Peyton Manning, QB
When the Colts were on the clock with the No. 1 pick in the 1998 NFL Draft, there was no doubt who they were going to take. They selected a quarterback out of Tennessee that turned out to be a top-five player at the position of all time.
Manning led the league in interceptions in his first season with 28. In 1999, he immediately turned it around with a Pro Bowl season. This would be his first of 14 Pro Bowl selections. Manning led the Colts to eight AFC South titles, two AFC Championships, and a Super Bowl victory.
As a member of the Colts, Manning led the league in completions, passing yards, and passing touchdowns twice each. He holds the NFL record with five MVP awards and won four with the Colts. He holds many records with the Colts including passing yards with 54,828 and passing touchdowns with 399. These numbers will hold for a long time in Indy.
Manning missed the 2011 season with a neck injury and his time with the Colts was over. He continued to put his name in the history books with the Denver Broncos. In 2013, Manning set NFL records for most passing yards (5,477) in a season and most passing touchdowns (55). He is already considered one of the best players in NFL history and is without a doubt the best Colt to ever put on the horseshoe.