CANTON, Ohio – The question was asked as soon as Marvin Harrision made it known he had chosen Jim Irsay to present him for enshrinement into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Whose speech would be longer Saturday afternoon at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium?
Harrison’s? He’s the most prolific receiver in Indianapolis Colts history, but also might be the most private player ever to wear the Horseshoe.
Irsay’s? Anyone with even passing knowledge of the chatty owner realizes he’s mastered the art of turning a short media availability session into something that often rivals a Congressional filibuster.
The answer: Harrison’s. Hands down.
As it turns out, the question had a faulty foundation.
No longer is the presenter given an open microphone and however much time he desires to lionize his enshrinee, followed by the enshrinee’s acceptance speech.
Per enshrinement guidelines, Irsay’s role, while a great personal honor, is limited and the heavy lifting already has been done. Within the last few weeks, he partnered with Pro Football Hall of Fame officials for a video tribute that actually will introduce Harrison to the sellout crowd.
After the video is played – it will be the first of eight for the Class of 2016 – Irsay will join Harrison on stage for the unveiling of Harrison’s bronze bust.
Then, the microphone belongs to Harrison.
The Hall of Fame “suggests’’ an enshrinee limit his speech to 12-15 minutes, but it’s not like someone will be waiting in the wings with a hook if a Brett Favre or Kevin Greene goes on an emotional tangent.
The Colts meet the Green Bay Packers in the annual Hall of Fame Game Sunday, and coach Chuck Pagano is allowing players to attend the enshrinement ceremony. At least two are expected to take him up on it: Robert Mathis and Adam Vinatieri. They are the only holdovers from 2008, the final season of Harrison and Tony Dungy, another member of the Class of 2016.
Mathis knows Harrison’s history of being the reluctant orator, and anticipates him “remaining true to himself.’’
Does he expect Harrison to have a lot to say Saturday evening?
“No, and I am taking bets on that,’’ he said.
Any guess on the length of the speech?
“What is the average?’’ Mathis asked.
About 12, 15 minutes, he was informed.
“Seven minutes, tops,’’ Mathis said of his guesstimate. “Five to seven minutes.’’
Harrison has worked on his speech for weeks, months. That’s what helped him reach the Pro Football Hall of Fame, preparation.
It’s expected to include recognizing those who played a role in keeping him on track as a youngster and as a teenager at Philadelphia’s Roman Catholic High School. He undoubtedly once again will acknowledge Irsay’s impact on his life and so much more.
“All that Mr. Irsay has done for the city of Indianapolis, all that he’s done for myself and my family,’’ Harrison said.
Irsay was the first call Harrison made Feb. 6 when he was informed he had been selected for the Class of 2016. He was honored then, overwhelmed now.
“It’s the greatest honor I have personally ever received in my almost 50 years in football,’’ Irsay said. “It’s very kind of him. I’m humbled.’’
Irsay noted Harrison has been talkative as Enshrinement Saturday has neared.
“He’s incredibly excited about this honor like I’ve never seen him,’’ he said. “He’s all of a sudden a 7-year-old kid who met Santa Claus.
“He’s almost a changed man.’’
Harrison was coy when asked about the length of his speech.
“I don’t know how long it’ll be,’’ he said. “I might get in a groove and talk for 25 minutes.’’