INDIANAPOLIS – Four or five years into his career, a men’s health magazine judged Tarik Glenn to have the worst physique in all of professional sports.
In the reactionary world of media coverage, reporters and cameras converged to capitalize on the moment to get Glenn’s response.
The classy Glenn politely dodged the matter and continued going about his job of being a left tackle in a pass-first offense.
What a job Glenn did in anchoring that position tremendously for a number of years.
Glenn’s arrival pre-dated Bill Polian’s by one year and Tony Dungy’s by five seasons. When both landed with the Colts, the critical position of left tackle never was an issue.
“You talk about ‘Dancing with the Stars,” said Polian in 2011. “You could put Tarik Glenn on ‘Dancing with the Stars’ and he would do a magnificent job. He had incredible feet, and he was a real pro.”
After playing at right guard as a rookie, Glenn, 6-5, 332, was shifted to left tackle in 1998, and he played as one of the league’s stalwarts until retiring after the 2006 season.
“He was steady every day, every week,” said Polian. “His performance would never really vary. He had unique talents for a man that huge. He did a wonderful job of preparing himself to be the best he could be.”
Glenn benefited from the tutelage of Howard Mudd, the club’s long-time offensive line coach. In Glenn’s first season, the Colts allowed 62 sacks in a year when positive steps were hard to find.
Mudd arrived with Polian, and the first pick of the draft yielded Peyton Manning. Orders were to protect Manning while building the offense and organization.
In 1998, the club allowed but 22 sacks, ranking first in the AFC and second in the NFL. It was a trend that continued.
Indianapolis shaved the sacks to 14 in 1999, jumping 10-games in the victory column and to the top of the NFL charts in quarterback takedowns. In 2000, the Colts were tied for the league lead by allowing only 20 sacks.
After Dungy’s 2002 arrival, Indianapolis allowed 23, 19, 14 and 20 sacks during the rest of Glenn’s career. The Colts topped the AFC in Glenn’s final three seasons and twice led the league.
Protection is a multi-faceted effort. Even a solid line can be undone with unsteady performance by other units. The Colts worked in sync famously for years, and Glenn’s durability was a comfort to Dungy.
“Any time you can pick a left tackle who’s going to anchor your line for years, those are so hard to come by,” said Dungy. “That was such a great pick. A lot of people wouldn’t realize how important that choice was. When you got that one right, it allows you to pick other positions when you really need to. When that one goes wrong, (it plagues you).
“We knew we were going to become a passing team. To have Tarik in place where you knew you didn’t have to worry for a decade, you can’t overestimate the importance.”
In Glenn’s final seven seasons, Indianapolis never ranked below second in the AFC and fourth in the NFL passing offense. Only once during that span did the club fall out of the top two AFC and top four NFL overall offenses.
Opponents knew the Colts would attack relentlessly, so they tried to level Manning. Glenn was one reason why it did not happen much, and he operated often on his own island.
“Tarik was so solid and did his job, and we didn’t give him a lot of help,” said Dungy. “We always wanted to get people out in patterns and give Peyton Manning a lot of options. There wasn’t a lot of help from the tight end or bumps from the running backs or chipping with someone else.
“It was week-in and week-out, ‘You’re going to take the best pass rusher and handle him.’ He did it very well. That was one of the best picks the Colts ever made. We had that position solved and didn’t look back.”
In 1999 and 2000, Indianapolis earned a true offensive distinction by allowing the fewest sacks while having the NFL’s top rusher, Edgerrin James. James had 1,553 yards in 1999 and 1,709 in 2000. Indianapolis joined Houston (1978) and the L.A. Rams (1983) as the only franchises with that accomplishment.
Glenn missed but six career games, all coming in 2003 when a knee injury snapped a career-opening streak of 101 straight starts. He still ranks as one of six players in franchise history to open 100 or more consecutive games.
“He reached (his potential) and had a great, great career,” said Polian. “In fact, (it was) a career that probably, from our perspective, ended too early. We wished he would have played a few more years.”
Glenn opted to retire in July of 2007, going out as a Super Bowl champion and exiting a violent and turbulent profession on his own terms, a rarity.
1997 (First-round pick, No. 19 overall)
Played 1997-2006, GAMES STARTED/PLAYED – 154/154
Notes: Mainstay at LT who started 154 games and missed but six outings in 11 seasons. Served through many seasons where line set franchise records for fewest sacks allowed per attempts. Blocked for 1,000-yard rushers Marshall Faulk, Edgerrin James and Joseph Addai and was a member of seven offenses with a 4,000-yard passer and 1,000-yard rushers and receivers, the most by one franchise in history. Three-time Pro Bowler.