When Ravens wide receiver Steve Smith and Indianapolis Colts wide receiver Reggie Wayne arrived in the NFL as rookies in 2001, both had high ambitions of proving themselves.
Thirteen years later, Smith and Wayne are still both going strong. The 35-year-old veterans are leading their respective teams in receptions and yardage heading into Sunday's matchup at Lucas Oil Stadium.
With 25 catches for 429 yards and three touchdowns, Smith is on pace to finish the season with 100 catches for 1,716 yards and 12 touchdowns. He's the oldest player in league history to reach 400 receiving yards in the first four games of a season.
Meanwhile, Wayne has caught 23 passes for 307 yards and one touchdown.
How have they sustained their success for so many years?
"They must have both visited the fountain of youth down in Ponce de Leon, or whatever you want to call it," Colts coach Chuck Pagano said in a conference call with Baltimore reporters. "They're both playing at a high level, and Steve is a game-wrecker. He's a competitive, competitive guy, and he's playing at a high level. He loves to play the game."
Smith leads all active NFL players with 125 career catches of 25 yards or more. That includes a 61-yard deflected touchdown reception during a 38-10 rout of the Carolina Panthers on Sunday. Smith dominated his former team with seven catches for 139 yards and two touchdowns on 10 targets.
Wayne is averaging 13.3 yards per catch since recovering from a knee injury last year.
"Yeah, I love that," Smith said during a conference call with Indianapolis reporters. "Reggie's doing his thing, we're from the same class. I think it's awesome, man. I think it's unbelievable and I think also when he went down with the knee injury, he comes back. You know, this is a young man's game and you've got two older guys playing well. That's great.
"We know each other. In passing, we've been in the Pro Bowl, we've talked. I have a lot of great respect for him. 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."
A five-time Pro Bowl wide receiver, Smith attributed his longevity to taking good care of himself and getting the proper amount of sleep and maintaining his nutrition.
"Well I think one is eating right," Smith 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. They always say, 'Nothing good happens when the street lights come on,' and I try to keep that going on.
"I get out of my bed and take a shower, brush my teeth and nothing really hurts, but also before I go to bed, I ice. I try to take care of my body and I listen to my body. I was up this morning, I was in here, you know, 6:45 lifting. I run after practice, I do my cardio, try to have a good, healthy diet, constantly watching my weight, try to stay hydrated. Just taking care of my body and trying to be a professional about it."
It's a similar approach for Wayne, a six-time Pro Bowl selection who ranks eighth in NFL career receptions, 11th in receiving yards to lead all active players in both categories. He's tied for 22nd in career touchdown receptions.
"I think Reggie is a fairly understated guy," Colts quarterback Andrew Luck said in a conference call. "He's not going to talk too much. I do think what Steve Smith does is incredible. As a football fan, it's fun watching him. You can tell he's a competitor, and he's a big playmaker. But I know, being around Reggie, we'll joke about [age] every now and then. I think what's great about Reggie is it's not his age that's making him try to prove it.
"He's a football player. He wants to go out there, and prove that he's a great football player every practice, every drill, every route, every game. I think he's a phenomenal professional, a phenomenal worker. I think it is neat to see two guys that came in the same year that are still performing at an incredibly high level."
Smith has caught 861 career passes for 12,626 yards and 70 touchdowns. Wayne has caught 1,029 career passes for 13,873 yards and 81 touchdowns.
The assignment of covering Wayne could go to Ravens cornerback Jimmy Smith.
"Any veteran receiver, as you see Steve just knows how to play the game," Jimmy Smith said. " The older you get, it's not so much about speed. It's more about technique. And when you watch [Wayne] on film, he isn't burning anybody, but definitely he's getting open and he's catching the ball when it comes. That's what they ask him to do, and he does a great job at it."