INDIANAPOLIS — Dallas Clark. Eric Dickerson. Marvin Harrison.
When it comes to the Indianapolis Colts franchise, few players, if any, were better at their perspective positions.
But had it not been for standout careers at the college level, perhaps none of them would have ever played in the National Football League, let alone become fan favorites in Indianapolis.
And, by early next year, all three could have a shot at being enshrined among the greatest college football players in the history of the game.
The National Football Foundation (NFF) and College Hall of Fame today announced the names on the ballot for the College Football Hall of Fame Class of 2019, a list that includes 76 players and six coaches from the Football Bowl Subdivision and 100 players and 32 coaches from the divisional ranks.
Twelve of those players — eight at the FBS level, and four from the divisional ranks — are former Colts players: guard Brandon Burlsworth; Clark, a tight end; Dickerson; a running back; Harrison; a wide receiver; running back Craig Heyward; guard Ken Huff; tackle Tony Mandarich; linebacker Simeon Rice; defensive back Ashley Ambrose; running back Keith Elias; center Ted Petersen; and defensive back Tyrone Poole.
Now, more than 12,000 NFF members and current Hall of Famers will submit their votes to the NFF’s Honors Courts, which deliberates and selects the Class of 2019 and will be announced Monday, Jan. 7, 2019. The 2019 class will be inducted during the 62nd NFF Annual Awards Dinner on Dec. 10, 2019, in New York, and the inductees will be permanently enshrined at the College Football Hall of Fame in Atlanta.
Here’s a little on the college career of each player with Colts ties from the 2019 ballot, followed by info about their professional careers:
• Brandon Burlsworth, guard, Arkansas: 1998 First Team All-American and First Team All-SEC selection…Helped Arkansas to two postseason berths and to SEC Western Division titles in 1995 and ’98…Former walk-on who later started 34 consecutive games. Burlsworth was a third-round pick by the Colts in the 1999 NFL Draft, but he was tragically killed in a car accident in Arkansas 11 days after his selection.
• Dallas Clark, tight end, Iowa: 2002 unanimous First Team All-American and winner of the Mackey Award as the nation’s best tight end…Two-time All-Big Ten selection who helped Iowa to a share of the 2002 Big Ten title and its first-ever 11-win season (2002)…Holds record for longest pass reception in school history (95 yards). A first-round pick by the Colts in the 2003 NFL Draft, Clark — a First-Team All-Pro and Pro Bowl selection in 2009 — would play nine seasons in Indy, logging 505 receptions for 5,665 yards and 53 touchdowns, and is atop the Colts’ record book for all three categories among tight ends.
• Eric Dickerson, running back, Southern Methodist: Named unanimous First Team All-American and finished third in the Heisman Trophy voting in 1982…Twice named SWC Player of the Year, he holds 14 SMU records including career rushing yards (4,450). Dickerson was acquired by the Colts in a three-team deal in 1987, and in five seasons in Indianapolis, he would run the ball 1,258 times for 5,194 yards (4.1 yards per carry) and 32 touchdowns. Dickerson, a 1999 Pro Football Hall of Fame inductee, was inducted into the Colts’ Ring of Honor in 2013.
• Marvin Harrison, wide receiver, Syracuse: 1995 First Team All-American as a kick returner and 1995 Big East Special Teams Player of the Year…Three-time All-Big East selection who set a conference record with a 94-yard punt return for a TD in 1995…Left Syracuse as the school’s all-time receiving leader (2,718 yards). A first-round pick by the Colts in the 1996 NFL Draft, Harrison would become one of the greatest wide receivers in NFL history, being inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2016. An eight-time Pro Bowl selection and six-time All-Pro pick, Harrison, a member of the NFL’s All-Decade Team of the 2000s, had 1,102 career receptions for 14,580 yards and 128 touchdowns. He had eight straight seasons with 1,000-plus receiving yards and 10 or more touchdowns, and shattered the NFL’s single-season reception record with 143 in 2002.
• Craig Heyward, running back, Pittsburgh: 1987 consensus First Team All-American who led the nation in rushing his final season and finished fifth in Heisman voting…Left Pitt as the second-leading rusher in school history (behind only Tony Dorsett) with 3,086 career rushing yards…Rushed for at least 100 yards in every game of 1987 season. Heyward, a first-round pick by the New Orleans Saints in 1988, would go on to play 11 seasons in the NFL with the Saints, Atlanta Falcons, Chicago Bears and St. Louis Rams, and in 1998, he wrapped up his career with the Colts, playing in four games with three starts at fullback.
• Ken Huff, guard, North Carolina: 1974 consensus First Team All-American who captained the College All-Stars vs. Super Bowl Champion Pittsburgh Steelers…First Team All-Conference and recipient of the 1974 Jacob’s Blocking Trophy as the ACC’s best offensive lineman…Third overall pick in the first round of the 1975 NFL draft and named an ACC Football Legend. Huff was the third-overall pick by the Baltimore Colts in the 1975 NFL Draft, and he would play in 102 games with the Colts over eight seasons before wrapping up his career with the Washington Redskins.
• Tony Mandarich, tackle, Michigan State: 1988 consensus First Team All-America…Finished sixth in the Heisman Trophy voting in 1988…Helped the Spartans to three bowl game appearances and a victory in the 1987 Rose Bowl. The second-overall pick by the Green Bay Packers in the 1989 NFL Draft, Mandarich would play three seasons in Green Bay before he was released as he dealt with drug and alcohol problems. But in 1996, after going to rehab, Mandarich, then 30, was able to successfully make his way back to the NFL, this time with the Colts. He played in 41 games with 32 starts from 1996 through 1998 before retiring.
• Simeon Rice, linebacker, Illinois: Two-time First Team All-American and three-time First Team All-Big Ten selection…Holds conference and school record for career sacks (44.5) and Illini record for career tackles for loss (69)…Set school record for single-season sacks (16). Rice would go on to become one of the most feared defensive ends in the NFL in his era; the three-time Pro Bowl selection and 1996 AP Defensive Rookie of the Year would play in 174 games over 12 seasons, starting with the Arizona Cardinals and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and in 2007, he wrapped up his career with the Colts (playing in two games) and the Denver Broncos (playing in six games). In all, he had 122 sacks and 28 forced fumbles.
• Ashley Ambrose, defensive back, Mississippi Valley State: 1991 First Team All-American and First Team All-SWAC selection…Named SWAC Defensive Back and Return Specialist of the Year in 1991…Led nation in punt returns during senior campaign. Ambrose would play 13 seasons in the NFL, the first four of which were with the Colts, who selected him in the second round in the 1992 NFL Draft. An All-Pro and AFC Defensive Back of the Year as a member of the Cincinnati Bengals in 1996, Ambrose would collect 514 tackles and 42 interceptions — three of which he returned for a touchdown — for the Colts, Bengals, Atlanta Falcons and New Orleans Saints.
• Keith Elias, running back, Princeton: Two-time First Team All-American (1992-93) and 1993 Ivy League Player of the Year…Princeton’s all-time leader in rushing yards (4,208) and rushing touchdowns (49)…Three-time All-Ivy performer who helped the Tigers to the 1992 conference title. After going undrafted, Elias would spent the first three seasons of his NFL career with the New York Giants before playing in 27 combined games in 1998 and 1999 with the Colts, mostly as a kick returner.
• Ted Petersen, center, Eastern Illinois: 1976 First Team All-America selection… Team captain who blocked for Nate Anderson, EIU’s first-ever 1,000-yard rusher…Became school’s highest-ever NFL Draft pick when he was selected 93rd overall (fourth round) by the Pittsburgh Steelers in 1977. Petersen, primarily a tackle at the NFL level, played in 94 games over his nine-year professional career, including five games with the Colts in 1984.
• Tyrone Poole, defensive back, Fort Valley State (Ga.): First Team All-America selection in 1994…Two-time Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SIAC) Defensive Player of the Year (1993-94) who led FVSU to two conference titles…Recorded 44 pass breakups and 17 interceptions, returning four for TDs. Poole, selected 22nd overall by the Carolina Panthers and general manager Bill Polian in 1995, would move with Polian to the Colts in 1998, and would play 45 games in Indianapolis over three seasons, collecting five interceptions. In his 12-year NFL career with the Panthers, Colts, New England Patriots, Oakland Raiders and Tennessee Titans, Poole — also at times a punt returner — would nab 18 career interceptions.