Irsay, Polian, Dungy Inducted into Indiana Football Hall of Fame
INDIANAPOLIS - Jim Irsay appreciated the honor. Very much.
What he appreciated as much, he said Thursday afternoon, was it came the same day Bill Polian and Tony Dungy received the same honor.
Together, the trio has built the Colts into an NFL power.
And on Thursday, the trio - Irsay, the Colts' owner and chief executive officer; Polian, the club's longtime president; and Dungy, the team's head coach - were each inducted into the Indiana Football Hall of Fame at a ceremony at the team's training facility.
"It's a great honor to be here," Irsay said. "I feel blessed to be up here and accept it."
Nodding to Polian and Dungy, he added with a smile, "I've joked with them, along with (Colts quarterback Peyton Manning), if maybe there can be a 25-year plan to keep them around."
Irsay, the Colts' owner and CEO since 1997, became the second member of his family inducted. His father, Robert Irsay, who moved the team to Indianapolis in 1984, was inducted to the Indiana Football Hall of Fame in 1997.
"We've been a great team together and we're still a great team together," Irsay said. "He toiled hard and was a great businessman. It's still a father-son team. He allowed me to work and start early as ball boy.
"It allowed me the privilege he didn't have, which is growing up in the league understanding the business and the game."
Polian, hired by Irsay as club president in 1998, credited Irsay's ownership with the team's success during their time together.
He, Irsay and Dungy each said Thursday's honor was very much an organizational award.
"Whenever an executive gets an award like this, it's always because of the work of others," Polian said. "You could stand here all day and not thank all of the people who made it possible. This is an organization from top to bottom that bleeds blue and does everything it can to be the best it can be.
"It's great for those people to be acknowledged and I want to echo that sentiment today, that we would not be the organization we are without them."
Polian and Dungy each spoke of entering the Hall as an honor fulfilling a goal of Irsay's to make the Colts a vital part of the Indiana and Indianapolis communities.
"One of the things Jim charted for us to do was to try and build up football in Indiana, to try and help make it better," Polian said. "Obviously, that has come about because of the work of our great coaches and all the other staff here today."
Dungy said the topic filled a major part of the January 2002 telephone conversation that led to his hiring.
"It's really special for me to go in with these two gentlemen," Dungy said. "It brings back special memories for me of January 2002."
Of the initial conversation with Irsay, Dungy recalled, "We never talked about football per se. We talked about the city, the state, the team, the young men who were here. Jim said, 'We do not have a history like the Pittsburgh Steelers, the New York Giants or the Cleveland Browns. We have people who didn't grow up as Colts fans, because there were no Indianapolis Colts. We have to connect to the community. We want to deliver a winner, but we have to embrace Indianapolis as we win.' We talked about that for a long time. That was his dream. That was his vision. Part of that has come to fruition with us winning a Super Bowl, bringing a Super Bowl here to the new stadium and all of that, but more than anything, he wanted us to be part of the community. That's been very, very special."
Said Irsay, "I think the thing for me is always being aware of all your fans and that shared connective experience. That's something that has been very imant to me for a very long time. That's a critical part. It has been a terrific journey in terms of a renaissance period for us."
Irsay, who assumed ownership of the Colts in January 1997, was named Vice President and General Manager in 1984 when the team moved to Indianapolis. He served in that capacity until taking the role of Senior Executive Vice President, General Manager and Chief Operating Officer in April of 1996.
Irsay, who assumed full control of the team upon the death of his father, Robert Irsay, is an active owner, chairing the NFL's Legislative Committee, as well as serving on the league's Finance Committee and Super Bowl Policy Committee.
"We've been so blessed," Irsay said. "We've worked very hard, but you realize a lot of things are out of your control. You don't let your ego make you think it's all because of how smart you are or even how hard you work."
He has also served on the Executive Committee of the Management Council and the Pro-College Relations Committee and was a member of the Realignment Working Group and the Working Club Executive Committee that authored the NFL's Collective Bargaining Agreement in 1993.
He and his family are generous contributors to many organizations throughout the Indiana.
Polian, in 20 seasons as an NFL general manager or president with Indianapolis, Carolina and Buffalo, has helped direct teams to 14 playoff, seven conference championship game and four Super Bowl appearances, while winning a World Championship.
His teams have earned a combined regular-season record of 202-133 and he has been part of eleven seasons with 11 or more victories.
After serving as a pro scout for Kansas City in 1978, Polian helped build Grey Cup title teams with Montreal and Winnipeg of the Canadian Football League before serving with the Chicago Blitz of the United States Football League in 1984.
Polian joined Buffalo in 1984 and was promoted to general manager in December 1985. The Bills reached Super Bowls XXV, XXVI and XXVII during his tenure, then added a fourth Super Bowl in 1993. Polian worked in the NFL Office in 1993 before joining Carolina, his last position before joining the Colts in December of 1997.
Polian serves as a member of the NFL Competition Committee, Diversity Committee, Management Council Senior Executive Committee and is Chairman of the College Relations Committee. He presented former Buffalo Head Coach Marv Levy at his Pro Football Hall of Fame induction in 2001.
Dungy, entering his seventh season with the Colts, has a 136-74 overall record in 12 years as head coach with Indianapolis and Tampa Bay. He has taken 10 of 12 teams to the playoffs, including his last nine (1999-2007), tying former Dallas Cowboys Head Coach Tom Landry for the most consecutive playoff appearances by a head coach since the 1970 NFL Merger.
Dungy became the first African-American head coach to win the Super Bowl, and is the first coach to beat all 32 NFL teams.
Since 1999, the Colts have made more playoff appearances - eight - than any NFL team, and they have the NFL's best regular-season record during that span. On February 4, 2007, the Colts won their first Super Bowl title in 36 years and the first in Indiana's history.
The Colts' five consecutive seasons with 12 or more victories from 2003-2007 are an NFL record, and their six consecutive seasons with 10 or more victories is the third-longest such streak in NFL history. The Colts also have won a franchise-record five consecutive AFC South titles in the last five seasons.
The Colts have started the last three seasons 13-0, 9-0 and 7-0, becoming the only team in NFL history open consecutive seasons with 9-0 starts and the first team in 76 years to open three consecutive seasons 7-0. The 2005 team set the club seasonal record with 14 victories and the 63 regular-season victories from 2003-2007 are the second-highest total over any five-year span in NFL history.
"It's really an honor and a privilege to go into the Hall of Fame with two people who have really m