Steve Smith, Reggie Wayne Proving Age Is Just A Number


Mark Wednesday as perhaps the first time Spanish explorer Ponce de Leon has ever been brought up during an NFL press conference.

This Sunday, two wide receivers will prove that age is just a number … or that they accomplished what Ponce de Leon didn't in 1513, and actually found the fountain of youth.

Ravens wide receiver Steve Smith, 35, and Colts receivers Reggie Wayne, 36, will square off against one another in Indianapolis. And both are still performing at a very high level.

"They all want to write these guys off at a certain age," Colts Head Coach Chuck Pagano said. "We've got living proof on both sidelines this weekend that you can throw out age. They both visited the fountain of youth down there – Ponce de Leon, whatever you want to call it."

Wayne has the most receiving yards of any active player in the NFL (13,873), and ranks 10th all time. Smith is third among active receivers (behind Wayne and Houston's Andre Johnson) and is 18th on the all-time list with 12,626 yards.

Both could have walked away from the game this offseason.

Smith was cut by the Carolina Panthers after 13 years of service, and was faced with the decision of whether he would start over with a new team. Wayne underwent a total knee reconstruction after missing 12 games last season.

But they both came back, chugging along at the pace of high-speed rails rather than locomotives.

"They definitely are doing something that is very special and amazing," Head Coach John Harbaugh said. "How often do you see guys of that age produce the way they are?"

With seven catches for 139 yards and two touchdowns last Sunday, Smith became the oldest player in league history with 400 receiving yards through his first four games of a season. He currently has 25 catches for 429 yards and three touchdowns.

Meanwhile, Wayne posted seven catches for 119 yards and a touchdown against Tennessee.

It was just the second time in league history that two receivers over the age of 35 had 100-yard games in the same week. The last time it was done was in 2009 by former Raven Derrick Mason and Terrell Owens.

"I love that," Smith said of the record. "Reggie's doing his thing. We're from the same class. You know, this is a young man's game and you've got two older guys playing well. That's great."

Wayne was drafted by the Colts with the 30th-overall draft pick in the first round in 2001, one spot before the Ravens selected tight end Todd Heap, who they put into their Ring of Honor last Sunday.

Smith was drafted in the third round (pick No. 74) by the Carolina Panthers.

Smith knows exactly how many receivers from his draft class are still playing in the NFL. He doesn't even hesitate. It's three: Smith, Wayne and Washington's Santana Moss.

Smith said he and Wayne know each other, and chatted in passing at Pro Bowls over the years (they have been to two together and 11 combined). Mostly, Smith has watched Wayne from afar.

"I have a lot of great respect for him," Smith said. "I don't know if he does, but I watch his tape and see some of the things that he does, when I was younger and also now that we're older. When you're one of the few older guys in there, you're always watching the fellow senior citizen run some routes."

So what have the "senior citizens" done to prevail in the league so long?

For both, it's a passion for the game. It doesn't look the same way for both, as Wayne is a "fairly understated guy," according to his quarterback Andrew Luck. Smith is anything but understated.

But their love of the game leads them to being elite professionals.

"He's a football player," Luck said of Wayne. "He wants to go out there and prove that he's a great football player every practice, every drill, every game. He's a phenomenal professional, a phenomenal worker."

And how does Smith stay so young?

"Well I think one is eating right," he said. "I think your recreational things outside the field have a huge impact on you; what you do, what you don't do, how you take care of your body, and going to sleep at night. Being a street walker tears your body up. You've got to go to sleep."

Indianapolis reporters asked Smith how much his 35-year-old body has left. How long can he keep swatting away Father Time?

"That number is known within the family and when that time comes, nobody will be shocked," Smith said. "Put it like this: when I walk away, I'll still be walking and I'll still have a giddy-up in my step."

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