The week of Aug. 5-9 will be a special one for Colts owner and CEO Jim Irsay, who will be on hand in Canton, Ohio for the enshrinements of two of his team's legends. Edgerrin James will be enshrined Aug. 7 as part of the Hall of Fame's class of 2020; one day later, Peyton Manning will be enshrined as a member of the Hall of Fame class of 2021.
"It's so special having two players of the ilk of Edgerrin and Peyton," Irsay said. "It's so great for the Horseshoe and certainly followed up with Marvin (Harrison) and Bill (Polian) and Tony (Dungy) having gone in. We're hoping for several others going into this decade."
Manning and James were drafted one year apart, in 1998 and 1999, and along with Harrison quickly became one of the best quarterback-running back-wide receiver trios in NFL history.
"I tell the story, I specifically remember it like it's yesterday, crystallized in my mind. Peyton and Marvin and Edgerrin were all together on an away, big nationally televised road game, about to come out of the tunnel when it was just quiet right before they entered the field, and you could see 88, 32 and 18 and they were about to go out and we were introducing our offense," Irsay recalled. "And I just locked that picture in my mind because you probably won't see it ever again. You have a tremendous appreciation about how hard it is to win and win the way we want. And I always talk about this as well, we were such a popular team and they loved the Colts and they loved the players and what they represented on and off the field. And so that's really important too, to me, the way they represented the Horseshoe the way that they did."
With Manning, Irsay talked Thursday about the impact the quarterback had with his wizardry at the line of scrimmage.
"Just to observe Peyton at the line of scrimmage and we all know the intensity of the student of the game he is and the great player he is, obviously given great physical skills, that sort of thing," Irsay said. "But the incredible aspect about the way he manages that line of scrimmage, the way he managed it is really second to none.
"If you're in a thunderstorm and you're in an airplane you want a pilot like that. If you're over fighting in wartime, you want a leader like that. This guy knew what he was doing an it showed and really, I think he — like Tiger Woods affected so many young golfers, he affected so many young quarterbacks. I mean they watched Peyton and never had really seen anything quite like it.
"There was no one that you could compare that to that did that at the line of scrimmage and how noticeable it was. That's why in 100 years there's only one Peyton Manning."
Irsay, too, will have the honor of presenting James at August's enshrinement ceremony — as he did when Harrison was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2016.
"It's the greatest privilege, I think, that I could have with the stewardship that I have," Irsay said. "It's just an indicator to me that forging that close relationship and really knowing what great friends we are and how we have each other's backs and how close we really, really are. I mean, these guys mean a tremendous amount to me and they lay a lot on the field. Their preparation, it's a tough game, they're heroic in what they do and I, like all fans, really look up to all the aspects that these great athletes go through.
"Just to play a year in the league, just to be drafted, just to start one game is incredible in the NFL. To be a Pro Bowler is incredible. To be in the Hall of Fame, it's hard to put into words how hard that is to achieve. Such admiration for these guys for sure."
In just a few weeks, the Colts will have their starting quarterback, workhorse running back, elite wideout, head coach and general manager from those dominant teams of the 2000's enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame (and, as Irsay alluded to — he hopes there are more players from those teams who will eventually wind up in Canton). And that's something Irsay will never take for granted.
"We were just really blessed that we were able to ping-pong off the success we had and keep that rolling because it was a special era," Irsay said. "But we're looking to try to chase it down this decade. We surely want to give it a go."