INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Edgerrin James wasn't around to celebrate Indianapolis' Super Bowl title with his former teammates.
Some of those guys will likely be back in town this fall to see James rewarded with another big honor: Induction into the team's Ring of Honor.
The Colts said Tuesday that the unconventional running back that ran for a franchise-record 9,286 yards will join the greatest names in Indy history on Sept. 23 when the Colts host Jacksonville.
"It's one of those things that you set out to do and hope to have a career where you can leave a lasting imprint," James said in a statement issued by the team. "For me, it's super important because a lot of my young kids didn't get a chance to see me play. Now, at least they'll know their daddy could play a little bit."
James did more than just play, he teamed up with Peyton Manning and Marvin Harrison to help resuscitate a moribund franchise.
And he did it his way -- with surprising flamboyance.
After Indy traded future Hall of Famer Marshall Faulk to St. Louis before the 1999 draft, Colts fans expected team president Bill Polian to make the obvious choice with the No. 4 overall pick -- Heisman Trophy winner Ricky Williams. Instead, Polian took the other running back with dreadlocks.
With his hair flapping from beneath his helmet and a gold tooth sparkling in the stadium lights, it didn't take long for small-market Indianapolis to embrace the former Miami Hurricane. James was a key catalyst in the biggest turnaround in NFL history, when the Colts went from 3-13 in 1998 to 13-3 in 1999, and became the first player to win rushing titles in each of his first two NFL seasons.
James' importance became vitally clear in 2001 when he sustained a season-ending knee injury on Oct. 25. The Colts went 3-7 without James and missed the playoffs for the only time between 1999 and 2010.
"Edgerrin is one of the most significant players in our history, and he embodies the talent and competitive nature we seek in every player," team owner Jim Irsay said. "Edgerrin ran his way into the record books and into the hearts of all Colts fans."
James set franchise records for carries (2,188), 100-yard games (49) and 1,000-yard seasons (five). He was the 1999 Offensive Rookie of the Year and a four-time Pro Bowl selection.
But after seven spectacular seasons in Indy, James signed with Arizona in 2005.
His popularity in Indy never waned, though. Longtime friend Reggie Wayne honored James at training camp in 2006 by showing up in a Cardinals jersey, and Irsay sent James a Super Bowl ring after the Colts won the 2006 Super Bowl title.
Two years later, James actually played in the Super Bowl, losing to Pittsburgh.
He finished his career with 12,246 yards and is ranked No. 11 on the NFL's career list. But it was Indianapolis where James had his fondest memories and biggest successes.
"It feels great to be among the names," James said. "Not only did you play, but you were one of the top players to play in the organization. No matter where I go or what I do, I'm always a Colt."
Harrison was inducted into the Ring of Honor last season. The third member of Indy's original triplets, Manning, was released by the team in March and is now playing for Denver.