INDIANAPOLIS – Marvin Harrison arrived in Indianapolis in 1996 as a quiet rookie who was the 19th overall draft choice from Syracuse.
Harrison departed after 13 illustrious seasons as a quiet professional who set club records so high they may never be eclipsed. Like Greta Garbo, one saw a wonderful performance, but knew very little beyond it.
But what a performance it was.
Harrison starred on center stage for the Colts, performing acts of belief suspending nature – at least until he topped it moments later. His exploits have earned him a place in the Colts Ring of Honor. On Sunday, Harrison will join those enshrined – Robert Irsay, Bill Brooks, Chris Hinton, Jim Harbaugh, Ted Marchibroda, Tony Dungy and the 12th Man.
"With Marvin, there are so many great memories," said Colts Owner and CEO Jim Irsay. "You're talking about one of the greatest football players ever to step onto the field. His accomplishments, speed, quickness, hands, intelligence, all of those things (are special). I really think combined with that was hard work. He worked with Peyton Manning and developed an incredible, uncanny ability to run every route out of the gate the first few steps the same. He was virtually uncoverable. There are so many memories of him. Whenever he got over the top and Peyton got him the ball deep, those were some of the most exciting plays we ever had in Colts history. You just know how much a player like that when his time is done is going to be hard to replace. I remember looking at his jersey and looking at him in his uniform before he left the locker room, particularly when it was getting near the end of his career, because I always wanted to have that image in my mind. Knowing Johnny Unitas, Mike Curtis, Bert Jones, Eric Dickerson and those guys who wore the Colts uniform, it's special when you see them about to leave the locker room and go out on the field. He had everything you are looking for in that over-the-top receiver. More than that, he was such a great route-runner. He could get you five yards, or he could get you 85 yards. He had a tremendous work ethic, the way he worked at it and mentored others like Reggie Wayne, not as much what he said, but how he acted and conducted himself in terms of working and what it was to be a great professional. What a great Colt Marvin will be forever."
Harrison played in 190 career games and totaled 1,102 receptions for 14,580 yards and 128 touchdowns. His receptions, yards and scoring receptions broke club records held by Hall-of-Famer Raymond Berry, marks that stood since 1967. Harrison had 59 100-yard reception games, a total that still ranks among all-time NFL leaders. He caught passes in the first 190 games of his career, an NFL record at the time he set it.
Harrison set the NFL seasonal record with 143 receptions in 2002. From 1999-2002, he became the first NFL player with 100 receptions in four consecutive seasons. From 1999-2006, Harrison had eight consecutive 1,000-yard seasons, and he is the only player ever to produce eight straight seasons with 1,000 reception yards and 10 scoring receptions.
His work with Manning yielded unprecedented results in league history and forever could place them as the game's best quarterback-receiver tandem. In 158 games together, Harrison and Manning collaborated on 953 completions for 12,766 yards and 112 touchdowns – totals that far exceed any other duo.
"As a player that was drafted in 1996, I saw others going up into the ring, but now to be one of those players placed in the stadium for a lifetime, words can't describe how I'm feeling," said Harrison. "I've never had anything retired, jersey or a number, on any level, but to be recognized by the Colts is the highest honor for me and my family. I'm truly honored to be placed in the Ring of Honor and to be a lifetime member of the Indianapolis Colts."
Harrison typically let his performance speak for him. Those who played with him, coached him or worked with him marvel about Harrison.
WHAT THEY SAY ABOUT MARVIN HARRISON
*Indianapolis Colts Owner and CEO Jim Irsay *
"Marvin Harrison is a very special football player, one of the elite players this sport ever has seen. We truly were blessed to witness his greatness on the field, the leadership he provided and the magic moments we will never forget. His excellence was on display for the duration of his career, and that is rare with most athletes. Part of what made him successful was his ethic and drive. He wanted to be the best, and he left nothing in reserve in his preparation and his approach to the game. His contributions can be measured in the receptions, yards and touchdowns he made, but it is impossible to calculate the other ways he influenced opposing defenses and helped his teammates be better because of the threat he posed. You always needed to know where Marvin was on the field if you were facing him. If you were like the rest of us, you always were on the edge of your seat in anticipation of what he might do that you would remember for a lifetime. He is one of the greats of all-time in league and Colts history, and it is an honor to place him in our Ring of Honor. What a tremendous professional."
Colts Vice Chairman Bill Polian
"Marvin Harrison is one of the 10 greatest receivers in NFL history. The incredible statistics he and Peyton Manning achieved is only part of the story. In an era when more publicly-heralded receivers drew attention to themselves at every opportunity, Marvin went about his business every day on the practice field and in the classroom with quiet dedication and meticulous attention to detail. His mental and physical preparation was second to none. He translated that work ethic to the field and coupled it with an insatiable desire to win and great physical toughness. Marvin Harrison never 'took a play off.' Marvin Harrison let his preparation and play speak for him. Marvin Harrison always came through in the clutch. He was the epitome of a Hall of Fame player. It was an honor to be associated with him. I look forward very much to the day when I can applaud him once again upon his induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame."
Colts Head Coach Jim Caldwell
"He's one of the all-time greats. He's just a tremendous, tremendous player. I marvel at his ability to do so many things so well, and make them look so easy. (He's) a guy that was blessed with speed, quickness and could blow the top off a coverage in a minute. He was a big-play guy consistently throughout his career. He practiced extremely hard, and he practiced as hard as he played. His saying was always, 'You pay me to practice, I play the games for free.' (He) was a guy that was a lot of fun to be around. The harmony between he and Peyton (Manning), it was frightening how well those guys communicated with one another without saying a word in most cases. Oftentimes, it took a nod and a wink, and those guys would maybe adjust something and come up with a huge play. When you have greatness in your midst, it jumps out at you right away. He's a special individual.
"Marvin was a perfectionist. Marvin was extremely competitive, not only with those he played against but with himself. He would challenge himself on a daily basis. I remember in practice once he came up to me and gave me a number like 75. I asked what it was. He said it was the number of balls he'd caught in practice without a drop. He just kept adding to that number and it shows you how his mind works. Some of the greatest catches he made, and he made some in games, but we saw great ones in practice. He practiced exactly as he played."
Former Colts Head Coach Tony Dungy
"When I came to Indianapolis in 2002, I knew Marvin Harrison was a very talented receiver – quick, fast, sure-handed and explosive. But actually seeing him practice and work on his craft was eye-opening to me. I soon realized what really made him great was his tremendous work ethic and a desire to be the best. Watching Marvin every day was like seeing a great artist at work."
Colts Quarterback Peyton Manning
"There are so many great things about Marvin Harrison. I always used to talk to defensive backs (of other teams) in the off-season and asked them, 'Who is the hardest receiver to cover?' All of them in the past decade would say, 'Marvin Harrison.' The main reason they would say that was the first 10 yards of his routes all looked the same. They couldn't tell if he was going 10 yards and out, 10 yards and in, deep down to the field to the post or the corner, back to the quarterback. They had to respect the fact that he was going to go deep and they would back off then all of the sudden they would think, 'He's not going deep.' They would squat down and he'd go right by them. It's a great quality as a receiver to make all your routes look the same. Marvin took a lot of pride in his craft. He always practiced. He was such a reliable player on Sunday, but he always was there Monday through Friday, which I think is a great quality. As a receiver, he took a lot of pride in the amount of (practice) balls he caught. He kept up with the routes we threw in practice and how many catches he had in a row. If we had an incompletion, he'd (say), 'That's the first incompletion in 70 throws.' That was a special guy who took the time and pride in his profession.
"When I was rookie, he was in his third year. I leaned on Marvin Harrison early. When you lean on a guy and he comes through for you, you keep leaning on him. When I threw my first pass at the preseason game in Seattle (1998), it was a four-yard pass and he ran 48 yards for a touchdown. I said to myself, 'All you have to do in the NFL is just throw four-yard passes to Marvin Harrison and he runs for a touchdown.' That's essentially what he did for the time we played together. I'll always be indebted to him because he was always there and you could count on him. He and I developed that sixth sense and had a great understanding of where he was going to be or where I wanted him to be. It was a wink there, a head nod there if we saw things the same way. He had unbelievable recall. He could remember a game from 1999 and here we were in 2006 and he would say, 'They're playing the same thing Buffalo played in '99, what about this adjustment?' Boom, we'd do it. We would put him in the slot some and he would come in motion towards the quarterback and as he came by we'd whisper a different route. I'd say, 'Pump it,' or 'Run the fade,' or 'Run the corner.' It was always very flexible, but you can't do that with a guy unless you put a lot of man hours in the off-season throwing together, and there were a lot of practices together. There was a special bond, a special connection. I always feel lucky to say I played with Marvin Harrison."
Colts Offensive Coordinator Clyde Christensen
"There are many people in all walks of like who are elite at what they do, but there are a select few who shape and define their positions. Marvin Harrison is in that select few. He affected how receivers play the game. He was an artist who took common routes which everyone runs and made them look original and unique each time he ran them. That combined with a relentless work ethic and uncommon durability made him one of the best of all-time. As a spectator with a 10-year sideline pass, I join all the other fans and thank Marvin for all the fun and thrills he brought to Indianapolis, the NFL and our country. It has been an honor and privilege to coach one of the best."
Former Colts Defensive Tackle Ellis Johnson
"He's my buddy. Marvin worked at his craft very hard. He made himself the best at what he did. Marvin was low-key. He would show up and get the job done. He was into giving 100 percent effort all the time. He would not miss a play in practice. To see a guy like him, he made no excuses. He just showed up and got it done. He's my guy. We have a lot in common. He's just a class act. Our styles and philosophies are the same – work as hard as you can, stay prepared, do the best job you can and there are no excuses."
Former Colts Wide Receiver Bill Brooks
"He was consistent. He was durable as well. He was one of the players that day in and day out was going to be there ready to play and play at a high level. He was not just able to play, but played at a high level, and he made big plays to contribute. Marvin might have been quiet. You might not have heard a lot from Marvin but when he went out there and played, everyone knew Marvin was out there. He was very consistent, and I just liked the way he ran routes. He ran sharp, crisp routes. He got open. The quarterback knew where he was going to be. Those are things to me that separated Marvin from the rest of the guys. In my mind, he's a first-ballot Hall-of-Famer."
Former Colts Quarterback Jim Harbaugh
"The catch radius that he had for not a big, long-armed receiver was amazing. You just had the feeling if you got it near him he would make the catch, or he would run it down with his legs. (He had) just a really good mind. (He was) just a teammate that made everybody better around him."
Former Colts Punter Hunter Smith
"What impressed me the most about Marvin Harrison was his ability to come out of his cuts and his routes. Watching him explode out of his cuts and catch the ball and always be open, it seemed, that was really impressive. Finally, the thing that allowed him to play so long and allowed him to be so great was his ability to avoid a hit. A lot of people wondered, 'Why does he just run out of bounds or why is he falling down?' There is a real security in someone in knowing he was only 5-11 and 170 pounds. He's not trying to run anybody over. He got the most out of this play that he was going to get, and he's going to get on the ground and to live to play another day. Watching him do that time and time again, watching him and Peyton (Manning) hook up over the years, what a special thing to get to watch."
Colts Running Back Joseph Addai
"When I think of Marvin, I think of a grown man. It gets to a point where football is over-rated and friends and family expect you to live your life a certain way and that you can't be normal. I feel like Marvin fits that role (being normal). Marvin goes and gets his job done, but he's a grown man. I always looked at him as a grown man. The media doesn't bother him. Him being Marvin Harrison doesn't bother him. I think he still goes about things like a normal person does. I always respected that. Whenever I needed information, Marvin always pulled me to the side and talked to me. He was always that guy for me, inside and outside of football. I think of Marvin Harrison as a real grown man, and it's hard to say that about a lot of guys."
Colts Wide Receiver Reggie Wayne
"Marvin is a freak, in a good way. He definitely helped me with my game. He's a future Hall-of-Famer. I came in and watched the way he worked. He was one of the hardest workers I've ever seen, and it showed. It came out on game day and even in practice. I have a quote that I took from him that I use to this day, 'Game days, that's fun. Practice is where I make my money.' I use that to this day. He had a standard and a work ethic second to none. He's Marvin. He doesn't say much, and that's cool. You know when he was out there on the field, it was all work. That's what you take from Marv. You don't take a quote or a special saying. You know that he was all about football and he wanted to go out there and do the best he could. He's the best in my eyes. I think he's a first-ballot Hall-of-Famer, and that he should be."
Colts Center Jeff Saturday
"The best way to describe Marvin is that he doesn't talk it all, he shows it all. I watched that man come into practice after practice and be the pro you're supposed to be. He taught me how to play football. When I watched him in practice the very first time, (there were) no gloves in practice, running full-speed routes, making plays. Then he showed up on Sunday and looked the exact same way. I have so much respect for the way he played our game. He never backed down. The guy showed up for big games. He carried this franchise for a long time. I have a lot of respect for what he's done. All the records he has, he deserves. There was nobody in the locker room who could out-work him."
Colts Tight End Dallas Clark
"Marvin Harrison is one of those players who come along once in a while. To be able to be around him and watch him practice, watch him go out week in and week out make moves, run a route, blow past a guy was something we took for granted. You got kind of accustomed and comfortable with him doing his thing every week, but it doesn't come by too often. What separated him from other receivers was his work ethic. He was out there every day. I think commitment like that separates good receivers from great receivers. Marvin, without a doubt, is a great receiver. It was special playing with him."
Colts Offensive Tackle Ryan Diem
"I don't think you can measure the impact he had on the organization. He has a lot of records, but it was more the intangibles (like) the way he would work at practice. He showed up and went to work every day. He never cut anything short. In practice, he was full-speed. He was full-bore all the time. It showed. The timing he and Peyton Manning had was pretty incredible. The numbers speak for themselves looking back on it, but it started in practice for Marv."
SEE COLTS.COM ON FRIDAY FOR HARRISON'S STATISTICAL EXCELLENCE