REGGIE HAYES: Colts seek fans’ vote for top moment in 35 years in Indianapolis, and it’s an easy call

Indianapolis Colts cornerback Marlin Jackson, right, jumps into the arms of offensive tackle Tarik Glenn after Jackson intercepted a Tom Brady pass to seal the 2006 AFC Championship game win over New England at the RCA Dome. (News-Sentinel.com file photo)
Indianapolis Colts fans Cheryl Onate, left, and Tina Smith cheer as Marlin Jackson intercepts a Tom Brady pass to seal the Colts' 38-34 AFC Championship victory on Jan. 21, 2007 at the RCA Dome. (News-Sentinel.com file photo)

The Indianapolis Colts are asking fans to vote for the top moment in 35 years of football in Indy, and it ought to be an easy choice.

Some of the candidates can be eliminated at first glance. For example, “Colts trade for Eric Dickerson” was a big deal at the time, landing an NFL great in his prime, but far too many Colts moments have happened in the 31 years since then.

While we’re at it, I don’t even think of a trade as a “moment.”

Hiring Bill Polian or Tony Dungy? Great moves. Not really moments. Drafting Peyton Manning? Best move in the franchise’s history in Indianapolis. But unless we zero in on the exact conversation where Polian and Jim Irsay agreed to pick Manning over Ryan Leaf, there’s no moment.

For me, and the Colts don’t necessarily view it this way, a moment involves spontaneity and has to take place on the football field.

I’m guessing fans will gravitate toward “The Colts win Super Bowl XLI” as the top moment. You can pick for yourself on their site. Nothing tops the Lombardi Trophy for NFL teams, right? I could define that as a moment, in the broad sense. It’s certainly the Colts’ biggest achievement since moving to Indy. That was the only time the Colts finished the season as the NFL’s best.

My choice for top moment is from that season, and it’s a single play: Marlin Jackson’s interception of New England quarterback Tom Brady’s pass to clinch the 2006 AFC Championship on Jan. 21, 2007.

The reaction in that instant was unlike any other I’ve seen in Indianapolis Colts history. The RCA Dome was never louder. As I stood in the press box, it swayed with the collective roar of fans celebrating reaching the Super Bowl and overcoming the dreaded Patriots. The Super Bowl, as rewarding as that win over the Chicago Bears would be, seemed almost anticlimactic.

To me, Jackson’s pick is the moment that stands apart as the most exuberant, cathartic moment in Colts history.

Here are the rest of my Top 5:

2. Joseph Addai scores on a three-yard run in the final minute of the 2006 AFC Championship game win over New England. Addai remains one of the most underrated heroes of the Manning era because his career was so short. And he could have easily shared MVP honors with Dominique Rhodes in the Super Bowl. (Manning was named MVP as a gift from voters.)

3. Kelvin Hayden returns an interception 56 yards to clinch the Super Bowl win on Feb. 4, 2007. Two of my top three moments are plays by the Colts defense, which was so maligned for so many years. Maybe defense really does win championships.

4. Peyton Manning breaks Dan Marino’s single-season touchdown record on Dec. 26, 2004. Manning hit Brandon Stokley for his 49th touchdown and celebrated a little later by leading the team to a game-winning overtime drive.

5. The Colts come back from 21 points down with less than four minutes left to beat Tampa Bay in overtime on Monday Night Football on Oct. 3, 2003. This was a wild series of improbable moments, which rewarded those who stayed up late when it seemed like all was lost.

Final note: Since this poll is a celebration, the Colts won’t be asking fans to pick their worst moment in the last 35 years. But if they ever do, I’d like to remind everyone the fake wasn’t Griff Whalen’s idea.

This column is the commentary of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of The News-Sentinel. Email Reggie Hayes at rhayes@news-sentinel.com.

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