INDIANAPOLIS (BVM) – Although the New England Patriots were the team that became an NFL dynasty in the early 2000s, it was often their AFC rival, the Indianapolis Colts, who were the most talented team in the league. While quarterback Peyton Manning got the headlines, it was his tremendous supporting cast that made the Colts so good, and an eventual Super Bowl champion by the end of the 2006 season.
Manning had a lot of talented pass catchers during his time in Indy and even as he got to Denver. But his No. 1 target will always be Marvin Harrison. After a long and successful football career, Harrison was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2016, putting the cherry on top of a tremendous football journey.
Harrison’s college career
Born and raised in Philadelphia, Harrison starred on the gridiron at Roman Catholic High School and had no shortage of suitors for college, some of which included Notre Dame and Penn State. However, Harrison’s final choice ended up being Syracuse, and it turned out to be the right fit.
After seeing limited action in a two-catch freshman season, Harrison burst onto the scene in his sophomore season with the Orange, catching 41 balls for 813 yards and seven touchdowns. He followed that up with 761 yards and five touchdowns in his junior year, but it was Harrison’s senior season that would make him an eventual first-round pick.
Catching passes from future NFL Pro-Bowler Donovan McNabb, Harrison set a Syracuse record with 1,131 yards to go along with eight touchdowns. Also a solid special teams player with two punt returns in his Orange career, Harrison concluded his time in New York with 2,728 receiving yards – a school record that stood until 2017.
Harrison’s NFL career
In the 1996 NFL Draft, the Indianapolis Colts selected Harrison 19th overall.
— Marcus Mosher (@Marcus_Mosher) March 4, 2021
Harrison’s first two pro seasons were solid as he caught eight touchdowns in 1996, and six scores in 1997, with over 800 yards receiving in both campaigns. However, Indianapolis won just three games in 1997, and would do the same in 1998 as Harrison’s receiving numbers decreased. Yet, with No. 1 overall pick Manning at helm, the future looked bright going forward.
In 1999, the Colts drastically improved to 13-3, and Harrison had one of the best seasons of his career with 115 catches, 1,663 yards and 12 touchdowns.
The wide receiver would go on to have over 1,100 yards every season from 1999 to 2006, highlighted by a career-high 1,722 yards in 2002. That season, the Colts legend also made an NFL single-season record 143 catches, a mark that would stand until Saints’ receiver Michael Thomas caught 149 passes in 2019.
December 15, 2002: Colts WR Marvin Harrison has 9 catches for 172 yards and 2 TDs, and breaks Herman Moore’s single-season reception record of 123. Harrison finished the season with 143 receptions (🎥 via NFL) pic.twitter.com/plo0dnS7I9
— This Day In Sports Clips (@TDISportsClips) December 15, 2020
During that same eight-year span, Harrison caught 101 touchdowns and was named to the Pro Bowl in each season. By the end of the 2006 campaign, the Colts won a long-awaited championship by defeating the Chicago Bears 29-17 in Super Bowl XLI. It was a moment which proved to be one of the pinnacles of Harrison’s pro career.
Unfortunately, Harrison suffered a knee injury that limited him to just five games in 2007, and he wasn’t quite the same player in 2008, going for 636 yards and five touchdowns. Harrison would retire following the 2008 campaign with 1,102 career receptions for 14,580 yards and 128 touchdowns.
Happy birthday to Hall of Fame WR Marvin Harrison! @Colts
🙌 1,102 catches
🙌 14,580 receiving yards
🙌 Super Bowl XLI Champion
🙌 NFL 2000s All-Decade Team pic.twitter.com/a9EIfgccOt
— NFL Legacy (@NFLLegacy) August 25, 2020
The six-time All-Pro and eight time Pro-Bowl player caught over 950 passes in the 158 games he played alongside Manning for 12,776 yards and 112 touchdowns. The two will go down as arguably the best quarterback-receiver duo in NFL history, and in a 1996 draft class that included the likes of Keyshawn Johnson, Joe Horn, Amani Toomer and Terrell Owens among others, Harrison finished his career as arguably the best in the class, and one of the greatest receivers of all time.
Harrison’s achievements and earnings
Harrison set numerous team and league receiving records during his playing career, and it didn’t take long after retirement for one of the best receivers of all-time to be recognized. In 2011, Harrison was inducted into the Colts’ ring of honor.
Five years later in 2016, Harrison finally made it into the Pro Football Hall of Fame after being a finalist each of the two prior years. An often quiet and humble guy on the field, Harrison – who was inducted the same year as his former coach Tony Dungy – opened up to discuss his career and thank his Colts teammates among many others that were a part of his football journey.
“Being inducted into the Hall of Fame is not something that happens overnight,” Harrison said at his enshrinement speech. “I’m very thankful and very grateful that this has happened. I’ve worked extremely hard to get to this point.”
Harrison’s personal life
When he was just 2 years old, Harrison’s 22-year-old father passed away. He was raised by his mother, Linda, who worked multiple jobs to support the family. He also gave a shout out to his grandmother, Luanna, during his Hall of Fame speech for the impact she has had throughout his life.
“The single most important person here for me today, and I have to acknowledge it, my grandmother, Luanna Harrison,” Marvin said. “She’s been around for a long time. Extremely hard-working woman, hard work and dedication had to come from somewhere, and it probably had to start from the top of the Harrison family.”
The 49 year old has instilled that hard work into his own family. He and his wife Dawne have two kids, Jett and Marvin Jr. Recently, Marvin Jr. has been garnering nearly as many headlines as his dad, as he is in his second year playing for the Ohio State Buckeyes.
— Bond Edits (@bondedits15) August 11, 2021
Marvin Jr. was a top-100 prospect in the 2021 recruiting class, as the four-star finished his career at St. Joseph’s Prep with 2,625 receiving yards and 37 touchdowns, catching balls from fellow Ohio State signee Kyle McCord.
While he only had 11 catches for 139 yards and three touchdowns in his freshman season behind a stacked starting WR trio for the Buckeyes, Marvin Jr. flashed his potential in the Rose Bowl against Utah with six catches, 71 yards and a bowl record-tying three touchdowns.
— The Buckeye Nut (@TheBuckeyeNut) January 2, 2022
As he enters his sophomore year, the 6-foot-3 receiver will form a dynamic tandem with Jaxon Smith-Njigba in what should be a lethal offense led by CJ Stroud.
— NFL on CBS 🏈 (@NFLonCBS) June 1, 2022
Harrison’s post-football life
Marvin Sr. has had his fair share of controversy in his post-NFL life. But other than being recognized for his brilliant NFL career and watching his son turn into a potential pro prospect himself, the Colts legend has dabbled into the business world in retirement, at one point owning a sports bar and multiple restaurants. He has also become a property manager back home in Philadelphia.
While the wide receiver has often been private about his personal life, he has continued to make appearances at Hall of Fame inductions, particularly as former teammates Manning and Edgerrin James received their gold jackets in 2021.
Also a thrill to see Edgerrin James and Peyton Manning come into the group as well. They were already in Indianapolis with Marvin Harrison when I got to the Colts in 2002 and were 3 of the hardest working players I have ever coached. That work ethic put all three in the HOF pic.twitter.com/jeGfrW7y6P
— Tony Dungy (@TonyDungy) August 6, 2021
Marvin Sr. could soon be earning another honor, as he has once again been named to the College Football Hall of Fame ballot for 2023 alongside former Colts teammate and fellow Syracuse alum, Dwight Freeney.
While the former Colts great has relatively remained out of the spotlight in his retirement, it has been cool for his fans to see his son follow a similar trajectory that he had. Perhaps the younger Harrison will catch up to his father someday, but there is no denying that Marvin Sr. will always remain as one of the best to ever do it in the NFL.