Marvin Harrison, Tony Dungy earn spots in Hall of Fame
SAN FRANCISCO (Feb. 6, 2016) – A pair of quiet Colts made major noise Saturday. The sound reverberated more than 2,000 miles to Canton, Ohio.
Marvin Harrison and Tony Dungy, two former Indianapolis Colts with hushed-but-assertive presences, are among the Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 2016. A third former Colts’ standout, Edgerrin James, failed to garner enough support in his second year of eligibility.
Joining Harrison and Dungy as modern-day inductees are quarterback Brett Favre, offensive tackle Orlando Pace and linebacker/defensive end Kevin Greene.
Quarterback Ken Stabler and guard Dick Stanfel were selected as senior candidates while Edward DeBartolo Jr. was chosen as a contributor by the Hall of Fame’s 46-member Board of Selectors, of which we are a member.
Colts owner Jim Irsay looked the part of proud father following the addition of Harrison and Dungy to Canton. He signed off on his franchise making Harrison the 19th overall pick in the 1996 draft and quickly determined Dungy would be his next coach after the Tampa Bay Buccaneers fired Dungy after the 2001 season.
“We’re elated,’’ Irsay said. “We just feel blessed. That one person goes into the Hall of Fame is incredible. But just coming off Bill Polian going in (Class of 2015), to have two guys go – Marvin and Tony together – is just tremendous for the horseshoe.
“It’s a great day for the horseshoe.’’
The third time proved to be a charm for Harrison and Dungy. Each was in his third year of eligibility and had reached the Final 15 for a third time. Harrison advanced to the Final 10 in each of the last two years only to be denied.
“It’s definitely an honor,’’ Harrison said. “It’s definitely a privilege. It doesn’t just happen. You don’t take it for granted.’’
Both Irsay and Dungy were quick to point out the reticent nature of Harrison.
“There’s no question Marvin is a man of few words. Anyone who’s ever known him knows that,’’ Irsay said. “But he is so excited, like a little kid when I talked with him a few hours ago.
“He sounded just like a young kid, 8 years old, and just got selected for the all-star team.’’
Dungy described Harrison as “the most artistic receiver I’ve ever been around.’’
Harrison also might have been the most elusive. Dungy recalled how Harrison generally was the first one out of the locker room, after practice or a game, and “without much fanfare.’’
“He loved to play,’’ Dungy said. “He didn’t like everything else that went with it.’’
Harrison set virtually every meaningful receiving record during his 13-year career with the Colts. He ranks No. 3 in NFL history with 1,102 receptions, No. 7 with 14,580 yards and No. 5 with 128 touchdowns. The 143 receptions he had in 2002 remain a single-season record.
Harrison’s biggest competition during Saturday’s nine-hour meeting was Terrell Owens, but he failed to make the initial cut to 10.
Dungy’s candidacy included six seasons as Tampa Bay’s coach, but his legacy was crystalized during seven years in Indianapolis. He’s the winningest coach in Colts history (92-33) and led the franchise to its first world championship in three decades with the 29-17 win over the Chicago Bears in Super Bowl XLI.
Dungy left an indelible mark in that game. He became the first African-American coach to win a Super Bowl.
The city of Indianapolis, Dungy stressed “was a tremendous time in my life and some great people. I really have to look at the Lord just guiding me there. I got fired in Tampa and you don’t know what’s going to happen and where you’re going to go or if you’re going to go anywhere.
“I have to thank my boss. Jim Irsay gave me a call, left a message on my answering machine. He said ‘We want to build a team the right way in Indianapolis. We want to connect with our fans and have a team that represents our city well.’ Didn’t talk about championships or any of that. Just talked about how he wanted to do it and he said ‘You’re the game I want to lead us.’’’
Irsay said Dungy had a “humongous impact on the franchise and on all of us in a very relative short period of time. He always leaves a legacy for the horseshoe.
“He always reminded me of (former Dallas coach) Tom Landry with his quiet demeanor, but with a stick that carried so much respect.’’
Dungy remained modest to the end.
“It’s not hard to see why I’m here,’’ he said. “Warren Sapp went in a couple of years ago, Derrick Brooks, Peyton’s going to go in, Marvin’s going in.
“Just some tremendous young men I had the honor to be around. There’s a reason why you go in as a coach. It’s those great players.’’