Harrison, Dungy should have Colts’ company in Canton
CANTON, Ohio – Jim Irsay has spent a portion of his last two summers in this historic setting.
There might be more trips to football nirvana in his foreseeable future.
The owner of the Indianapolis Colts was on hand last year when his former long-time executive, Bill Polian, was enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Irsay played a prominent role, that of presenter, Saturday evening at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium as Marvin Harrison was inducted as a member of the Class of 2016. He also looked on as his former coach and fast friend, Tony Dungy, joined Harrison in achieving immortality.
He wouldn’t mind if this became a semi-regular routine.
Polian, Dungy and Harrison were instrumental in the Colts’ record-setting stretch in the 2000s. Polian was the skillful architect, Dungy the calm controller and Harrison the quiet disrupter.
But they had ample help as the Colts established themselves as one of the NFL’s flagship franchises, one that delivered a world championship to Indianapolis by handling the Chicago Bears in Super Bowl XLI after the 2006 season.
Consider the high-profile cast: Peyton Manning, Edgerrin James, Reggie Wayne, Adam Vinatieri, Dwight Freeney, Robert Mathis, Jeff Saturday.
“It was a blessing. It was a lot of fun,’’ Irsay said of the collection of talent. “Not only did we have an incredibly successful team, we had a fun team to watch. Even when we were going to win 45-14 going into the game, fans would just love to tune into the game and watch the magic of Peyton working with Edgerrin, then to Marvin, then to Reggie Wayne.
“We’re seeing them go into the Hall of Fame. We all sit there and think: Who else? Vinatieri? Mathis? Freeney? Reggie? Edgerrin? Who else might?
“The list goes on and on. Hell, we’re going to have to have enough room in the Ring of Honor. We’re doing them once a year until I’m 80 years ago.’’
Manning is the slam-dunk Colt. He’s eligible for consideration for the Class of 2021, which actually is after the 2020 season, and will be a first-ballot inductee.
The rest will require some discussion.
James, the NFL’s No. 11 all-time leading rusher, has been eligible the last two years and was one of 15 modern-day finalists last year. Wayne, No. 7 in receptions and No. 8 in yards, is eligible for consideration for the Class of 2020 – a player must be out of the NFL for five seasons – while the others remain active.
It’s anybody’s guess when Vinatieri will make himself eligible. He’s in his 21st season and is the NFL’s oldest active player at 43, and has no intention of walking away anytime soon.
“I don’t think about it,’’ Vinatieri said. “It’s so far down the road. It’s a huge honor to even have people mention you in that respect.
“But I feel there are a couple of more chapters I want to put together and hopefully I can help this team win a couple more (Super Bowls) and then make it an easier decision (for Hall of Fame selectors).
“There are no guarantees. There’s hardly any kickers or punters in the Hall of Fame. Jan Stenerud is the only kicker.’’
Dungy earned his bronze bust on his own merits. Along with posting a 148-79 record in 13 seasons with the Colts and Tampa Bay and setting a league record by taking his teams to the playoffs in 10 consecutive seasons, he championed diversity in the NFL. Dungy because the first African-American head coach to win a Super Bowl.
His resume aside, Dungy realized one of the primary reasons his bronze bust will forever reside in Canton.
“Maybe to quote Bill Parcells, there’s a reason why I’m sitting here right now,’’ he said. “When you have Hall of Fame players, they make you look good.’’
Former Buccaneer standouts Derrick Brooks and Warren Sapp were recently enshrined. John Lynch has been among the Final 15 in each of the last three years.
“I was the beneficiary of being around some really, really good people,’’ Dungy said.
Harrison is the first player who truly was an (ITALICS) Indianapolis Colt (END ITALICS) to be enshrined. Eric Dickerson (Class of 1999) began his record-setting career with the Los Angeles Rams. Marshall Faulk (Class of 2003) finished his with the St. Louis Rams.
Dungy expects Harrison soon to have company.
“I do,’’ he said. “I think it’s probably just a matter of time for Edgerrin. He may be the most underappreciated of the three (Manning, Harrison, James).
“But Edgerrin is a fantastic player. Peyton obviously is going to go in on the first ballot. Reggie . . . Dwight Freeney, Robert Mathis are 100-plus sack guys. Adam Vinatieri is certainly going in.’’
When the next Colt gets the call, Irsay will be there.
“My goodness gracious. It’s rare to have as many as we did,’’ Irsay said. “They were great guys doing great things on the football field.’’