PHILADELPHIA — Marvin Harrison has always been known for his soft-spoken nature, but his eyes lit up Thursday night when he was asked about having the 2017 NFL Draft in his hometown of Philadelphia.
Thousands in the City of Brotherly Love packed the area outside the Philadelphia Art Museum to cheer — and, of course, jeer — for hours throughout the primetime event.
There was a definite buzz in the air, and for Harrison, it was a source of pride.
"It means a lot to the city," he said. "It just brings a different experience; something that we've never had here. I think that the city is just in an uproar right now, and it's great to have them here."
The Hall of Fame wide receiver was actually taking part in the festivities in a somewhat-official capacity, as he was one of the representatives seated at the Colts' draft table for the first round Thursday night.
He's one of two Colts legends that will play a role in the team's draft plans in Philadelphia; tonight, Robert Mathis — who just retired as the greatest pass rusher in team history — will announce the Colts' second-round pick on the stage as part of the NFL Legends Community. Thirty-one other former players, each representing a different team, will be doing the same throughout the round.
Back to Harrison: he attended Roman Catholic High School in Philadelphia, where he was a three-time Maxwell Award winner, given to the city's top player. He continued to give back to his hometown throughout his NFL career, where he would host or organize several different charitable efforts.
He would go on to star at Syracuse, where he was a three-year starter as a wide receiver and kick returner. In 42 games, with 30 starts, Harrison would become the school's all-time leader in receiving yards (2,718), would rank second in total touchdowns (22) and was third in receptions (135). He also had two career punt returns for touchdowns.
Harrison became the Colts' first round selection in the 1996 NFL Draft, and said he took was celebrating at home in Philadelphia with his family, friends and coaches when he got the call that he was going to Indianapolis.
He made an immediate splash in Indy, leading the team in receptions (64), receiving yards (836) and receiving touchdowns (eight) his rookie season. He was only getting started, however, and finished his 13-year NFL career — all with the Colts — in 2008 having accumulated 1,102 receptions (fourth all-time) for 14,580 yards (eighth all-time) and 128 receiving touchdowns (fifth all-time).
Harrison on Thursday was involved in the Colts' selection of Ohio State safety Malik Hooker in the first round (15th overall), and gave him a little insight into what he should expect upon arriving in the Circle City.
"I've had a lot," Harrison said on his favorite Colts memories. "Believe it or not, just the city itself — the fans and the people that I made friends with throughout the years, and all the guys that I've played with over the years. It just is a great town to be in, and I had a great experience."
Although Harrison proved to be a budding star in his rookie year, he made sure to stay grounded as a youngster in the league. Asked to reflect on his rookie season, and Harrison said "I just didn't have a clue what was going on."
"I just wanted to come into the team and be a part of this franchise and let them know that they made the appropriate pick in me being a first-round pick," Harrison said, "and that I'm going to do everything I could to help this team win."
And win they did. With Harrison, the Colts accumulated a regular season record of 129-79 (.620), advanced to the playoffs 10 times and were Super Bowl XLI champions.
Harrison was obviously a huge piece to that winning puzzle, and told Hooker that he has the opportunity to do the same.
"No. 1, you're going to be coming to a top-notch organization," he said. " And as long as you do the right thing, you'll be treated very well. And it'll be an experience of a lifetime that you'll never forget."
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