The Marvelous Marvin Harrison

Now that Marvin Harrison has been inducted into the Colts Ring of Honor, we can finally pay tribute to one of the greatest Colts of all-time.

Warning: This bad boy is going to be long. You can’t honor one of the greats of all-time in under 2,000 words!

Disclaimer: I feel a little bit uneasy writing a gushing post about a man who could very possibly be a murderer….. but I guess that’s what I’m going to do. Marvin Harrison is a person of interest in the 2009 murder of a Philadelphia drug dealer. I’ve read up a whole bunch on the case and watched the E:60, and I just don’t know. It sure seems possible (maybe even likely) that one of my favorite football players ever is a crook, but then again the victims changed their stories throughout the investigation and Marvin hasn’t been charged with anything – the whole mess is as shady as Tom Brady. My biggest fear is becoming one of those blinded idiotic Penn State students who rioted after Joe Paterno was fired. I don’t want to elevate someone above the law or any moral code  just because he or she is a prominent sports figure. On the other hand, the Indianapolis Colts, a franchise which has always been extremely PR cognizant, have decided to endorse Marvin and so have many others whom I greatly respect (i.e. Tony Dungy, Jeff Saturday, etc.). This is America after all: innocent until proven guilty.

The rest of this post will be dedicated to Marvin Harrison, the incredible football player, with the assumption that he is in fact an innocent decent human being. If it turns out he isn’t, I reserve the right to take it all back.

It’s funny, the things I remember from my youth. I remember some of the most random seemingly useless tidbits, while I seem to have forgotten some of the more interesting and important moments. For example, (until I was reminded yesterday) I completely forgot that Reggie Miller (my favorite player ever in any sport) hit a game winning 3-pointer against the 76ers in Game 1 of the 1st Round of the 2001 NBA playoffs. I forgot about a game winner in a playoff game! I’ve now watched the aforelinked youtube clip, but it still doesn’t ring a bell. Did I not watch that game?! I was a 12-year-old sports nerd with no friends, of course I watched that game! It’s infuriating! On the other hand, I can remember stupid pointless things like the name of my first grade teacher’s dog (Mackey) and the color of my childhood best friend’s basement carpet (a nasty shade of lime green).

Another one of these useless memories (well until now I guess): my old man use to always call 1990s Colts wide receiver Sean Dawkins – “Sean Droppins.” He thought this was hilarious. I just thought it was weird because I really liked Sean (although when you’re 10 years old or younger, you love every player on your favorite team unconditionally). In hindsight, this badgering of poor Dawkins strikes me as fairly unusual. My old man, a long-time Indianapolis Colts fan who never gets too high nor too low, rarely bashes any individual Colt player nor does he often overly praise any of them. The only Colts I can ever remember him being particularly hard on (besides “Droppins”) are Peyton Manning (inexplicable), Rob Morris (somewhat understandable), and now of course Curtis Painter (completely justifiable).

What’s the point of this long winded trip down a faulty memory lane? One of the few players to ever garner high praise from my pops was Marvelous Marvin Harrison. Marvin was like the football star son in October Sky, and everyone else was Homer to my dad. If there was one nickname that he used more than “Sean Droppins”, it was “Marvelous Marvin” (and that’s really saying something).

My first memory of Marvin Harrison is of me checking out his rookie card the summer after he had been picked 19th in the 1996 draft and thinking that he and his Syracuse orange and blue football jersey looked super badass (or whatever term 7-year-old me would have used).

My second and more important memory came later during the same year inside of a local Sherwin Williams. The largely unknown rookie was signing autographs at the store, and apparently my parents were the only people in town who had the foresight to know that Marv was going to someday be one of the greatest wide receivers to ever live. Mel Kiper has nothing on Julie Carney. As far as we could tell, my family was the only one to show up to meet the future legend. We were nervous and quiet. Marvin was equally nervous and equally quiet (turns out he’s always this way). My brother and I received autographed footballs and took a picture with the surprisingly very average sized man. Instantly, Marvin was my favorite football player on the planet (with exception to the untouchable Jim Harbaugh) and would be for quite some time. Little did I know, I had just met a soon to be superstar who 15 years later would be enshrined into the Colts Ring of Honor in an incredible stadium that he (in a way) would help build. 

Marvin’s first few years in the league came during a transition period for the Colts. After the dream 1995 season, the front office inexplicably decided not to retain head coach Ted Marchibroda. I cried like a little girl during his good bye press conference. I wouldn’t cry this hard again till I watched Tom Hanks lose Wilson in 2000 (man what a crushing scene). Teddy had just lead the underdog Colts to within one dropped Hail Mary pass from reaching the Super Bowl (unbearably heart breaking…. especially for a 7-year-old…. let’s not talk about it anymore). The Colts would produce an average ’96 season (Marvin’s first) ending with another playoff loss to Pittsburgh. This season was followed by the painful, yet glorious, 3-13 1997 season which produced the first overall pick of the 1998 draft – Peyton Manning (thank God).

Once Peyton entered onto the scene, Marvin’s career shot off like a rocket (this tends to happen when you have one of the best qb’s of all-time throwing to you). Manning’s second season, 1999, began an incredible statistical stretch for Harrison. It was during this period that Marvin became “Marvelous Marv.” From 1999 through 2006, Harrison would rack up over 1,000 yards receiving and 10 or more touchdown catches (an NFL record) every single season. Marvin was also a Pro Bowler and an All-Pro selection for each of these years. Marv’s sensational run of brilliance ended in a 2007 regular season game against the Denver Broncos in which he suffered a leg injury that ended his season. He was never the same again. He returned for one more season in 2008 but was only a shadow of his former self.

The complete list of all Marvin’s receiving records is staggering (and can be read here). If you don’t have time to crank through the list, I won’t hold it against you. It took me a solid 17 minutes to read it all. It should be noted that the page lists over 50 bullet points of records. Many of the bullets (no pun intended by the way) contain multiple records. His most impressive record has got to be the one for most receptions in a season, 143 in 2002. ONE HUNDRED AND FREAKING FORTY-THREE. What an incredible year. Second place, Herman Moore, is only 20 receptions behind at 123 catches in 1995. Marv finished his career with 1,102 receptions (2nd all-time), 14,580 receiving yards (6th all-time), and 128 receiving touchdowns (5th all-time). He’s also the only player ever to catch a pass in every single game in which he played.

He and Peyton Manning also hold many records together as a quarterback-to-wide receiver combination. The two hold the records for most touchdowns (112), receptions (953), and yards (12,756) between a quarterback and receiver. Manning to Harrison was undeniably the best quarterback to receiver combination of all-time. It’s nearly impossible to mention one without crediting the other. What made the duo so great was their impeccable timing and chemistry. After practicing and playing together so much and for so long, the two could make adjustments by merely looking at each other a certain way. As Manning puts it:

“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, or a head nod there if we saw things the same way. There was a special bond, a special connection. I’ll always feel lucky to say I played with Marvin Harrison.”

Harrison has record upon records, yes. But amongst his former teammates and coaches, it was his work ethic and professionalism that were most impressive. According to basically everyone, Marvin was always the hardest working guy on the team. Due to his unparalleled practice habits, he became one of the best and most precise route runners in the league. As Manning would say, the first 10 yards of every one of his routes always looked identical making him nearly indefensible. And during an era when it seemed every receiver was an attention-hogging-self-serving diva, Marvin was always seen but not heard. He always walked, never talked. He was considered the epitome of class. He was probably the most shy famous person I can think of. He once said that he didn’t want to be inducted into the Hall of Fame because he didn’t want to give the acceptance speech. Now that’s shy!

As a conclusion to this tribute, I give to you The Top 5 Marvin Harrison Moments. It’s difficult to come up with a truly comprehensive list of the best Marvin moments (it’s hard to keep track of 1,102 receptions, you know?), but I’ll give you my personal favorites.

Top 5 Marvin Harrison Moments:

5.  “Nobody Touched Him!” – Touchdown vs. Denver Broncos in 2003 AFC Wildcard

January 4, 2004: This game resulted in Manning and Harrison’s first ever playoff win and the first home playoff win for the Colts since moving to Indianapolis in 1984. The second Colts touchdown of the game is one of my all-time favorite playoff and Marvin memories. Manning hit Harrison on a simple crossing route at the Broncos 30-yard line. Harrison went down to the ground immediately as he often did. While two Broncos defensive backs were arguing about who blew the coverage on the play, Marv got up and ran into the endzone. The Denver players had completely neglected touching him and thus ending the play. The RCA Dome was beside itself. This game was easily the Colts most dominating playoff performances ever.

4. Ridiculous one handed catch in Tennessee, 2003 – “What a circus catch!”

December 7, 2003: Another one of Marvin’s top moments came only one month before our #5 moment. In my opinion this was Harrison’s best catch ever. Late in a crucial 2003 regular season game against the Titans, Marvin went deep and beat his man using pure speed. Manning overshot Marv a bit, but Harrison dove and made a stupid crazy one handed catch as he fully extended his body. He pulled the ball in still only using his right hand and crashed down to Earth sliding to the 10 yard line. I remember going nuts watching it. Not only was it a jaw dropping grab, it came late in a pivotal game. The Colts would go on to win 29-27. The win provided them the divisional championship tie breaker and (in essence) a home playoff game (the one described in #5).

3. The Spike – one handed catch and spike against the Pats in 2006

November 5, 2006: In the previous year’s regular season match up with the Patriots, the Colts had finally turned the rivalry in their favor with a 19 point blowout win. The 2006 contest helped to continue building momentum against the Pats. Momentum that would eventually result in an AFC Championship victory later in the 2006 season. Most experts describe this Marvin catch as the defining one of his career. It’s been replayed over and over and over again on television and probably will be forever. No complaints here. The reason it beats out the previous grab on our countdown is that it came against the hated Pats on Sunday Night Football. Everyone always watched the Pats-Colts game. It was the game of the year every year back then. Therefore, everybody and mama saw this catch live. Even better than the catch was the celebration. Marvin was always the rare receiver who would catch touchdowns and then politely hand the ball to the referee. Not this time. It appeared as if Marvin’s frustration with the Patriots had finally bubbled over. He was tired of all the over-physical coverage, dirty tactics, constant trash talk, and the never ending supply of general douchery and arrogance (….at least I was). After he scored, he emphatically spiked the ball into the ground. It bounced right into Pats linebacker (and consumate douche) Mike Vrabel’s chest (he cried about it like an 11 year old me watching Castaway by the way). It was probably one of the happiest moments of my young life. It showed me that the Colts players hated the Patriots just as much as I hated the Patriots – which was awesome. No one (and I mean NO ONE) cared that it drew a penalty flag. Suck it Pats.

2. Harrison and Manning break the all-time QB to WR touchdown record

October 18, 2005: On this night the 2005 Colts moved to 6-0 on their way to another extraordinary season, and Peyton Manning and Marvin Harrison moved past Steve Young and Jerry Rice into 1st place on the all-time quarterback to receiver touchdowns list. The play came early in the 4th quarter on a 6 yard fade route. Bob Lamey almost had his 138th heart attack: “That’s the record breaker!” With this play, the duo officially cemented themselves as the best combo ever. The best part of this moment was when Manning and Harrison kept handing the ball back and forth between each other. Manning said after the game that they would cut the ball in half (tough to do with a football, but I’ll take his word for it).

1. Marvin inducted into the Colts Ring of Honor

November 27, 2011: My number one Marvin moment came just a few days ago when Harrison was finally welcomed back to Indy and inducted into the Ring of Honor. This day came as a huge relief for me. I feared that due to the somewhat hostile release of the great receiver and his pending legal troubles, he might never be properly honored here in The Circle City. The standing ovation for Marv last Sunday was one of the longest and loudest I’ve ever been a part of. You could say it was marvelous. Well deserved for a future first ballot Hall of Famer and one of the greatest to ever play.

It’s hard to believe that 15 years have past since I first met Marvelous Marv at that rinky dink paint shop. For 13 great seasons he dazzled all of us (even my tough to please dad) here in Indy. He was the first building block in the creation of an eventual world champion and in turn a state-of-the-art stadium. Here in Indy we’ll be forever indebted to the Great 88. See ya in Canton big guy. I can’t wait for the shortest Hall of Fame speech we’ll ever hear.

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About Jack Carney

I'm a senior at Purdue University studying Accounting and Finance. I'm a proud member of Lambda Chi Alpha Fraternity here at Purdue as well as a Sports Writer for the Purdue Exponent. I love the Boilermakers, Colts, and Pacers with all my heart and soul. I also love quoting movies, re-reading Harry Potter instead of trying out new books, smoking my corncob pipe, and growing out my mustache for random occasions.
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3 Responses to The Marvelous Marvin Harrison

  1. Nya says:

    brilliant writing. I miss Harrison so much and he was an incredible receiver. Nobody can replace him.

  2. Brennan says:

    Oh, man. Marvin was always my favorite – like you, right from when he started. And your #5 and #3 would be my #’s 1 and 2 (since I wasn’t at the Ring of Honor Induction ceremony). That catch against the Pats – I almost got tossed out of a bar that night for excessive celebration. Absolutely one of my all time favorite sports memories. And I’ve always hated the Broncos, mainly because Elway wouldn’t play in Indy but also because I lived there for two years and their fans are the WORST, so #88 schooling them in that playoff game was sweet. All those catches with the two feet in – even today when Garcon or Collie makes an amazing catch my buddies and I text each other that it was “Marviny.” Thanks.

  3. Don says:

    I remember the days when Marvin was just up and coming along with Ken Dilger and Captain comeback Harbaugh.Little that i know that the franchise was on the brink of exploding into an electrifying force.I just think it all started when they signed number 88 and later the 95 season…a gateway to all the good that happened and what has yet to come…GO COLTS

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