Good read. I hope he gets into the HOF.
Former Colts WR Marvin Harrison opens up on eve of Hall of Fame election
By Mike Chappell, firstname.lastname@example.org 9:19 a.m. EST January 26, 2014
PHILADELPHIA A winter storm was slowing the North Philadelphia neighborhood Marvin Harrison's neighborhood to a crawl with mounting snow, gusting winds and plunging temperatures.
Parked cars on a side street leading to Girard Avenue already were buried under a heavy white blanket on this treacherous Tuesday. Traffic was sporadic and perilous.
But FedEx was on the job.
After leading a pair of mid-morning visitors in to the warmth of one of his business properties, Harrison walked over to the front door and picked up a special delivery package that had been slipped into the mail slot.
It was from the Pro Football Hall of Fame, reconfirming his selection as one of the 15 modern-day candidates for the Class of 2014. The Indianapolis Colts' all-time leading receiver finds out Saturday whether his bust will be added in Canton, Ohio.
Harrison occasionally nodded as he glanced at the letter.
"I'm not going to lose any sleep over it, but it would be a great honor after everything you did on the field, everything you worked for," he said in an exclusive interview with The Star.
Harrison paused. His eyes widened and he rubbed his hands together as he recalled one of many casual encounters with then-Colts president Bill Polian at the team's Northwestside complex.
"Polian would pass me in the hall and say, 'Hey, what's going on Hall of Famer?' " Harrison said. "I was like, 'What's he talking about?' I'd keep on walking, shaking my head. It was after my eighth, ninth or 10th year and I didn't know what the Hall of Fame was all about.
"He kept saying it. Then you start hearing about (the Hall of Fame) all the time and you start thinking maybe it can be a reality.
"But it's not something I ever set out to do."
Shown the way
Harrison, 41, looks as if he could shed his red sweatshirt and jeans, pull on the pads and run circles around a defensive back even though he hasn't played since the 23-17 overtime loss to the San Diego Chargers in the 2008 postseason.
He appears fit, close to his usual playing weight of about 180 pounds.
Post-NFL agrees with him. The greatest aspect of retirement, he said, is "I don't have to be nowhere."
Harrison spends time dabbling in one of his many business ventures cars, real estate and doting over 11-year old son Marvin Jr. He's helped coach his son's Little League teams.
"They're trying and they're having fun, win or lose. Fun all the time," he said. "They listen to everything I say. I'm always joking with them. I'm kind of the coach (Tony) Dungy of the Little League."
His aunt owns and operates Deborah's Kitchen, a block away on Girard Avenue, so there's always good food within reach. His grandmother, Lue Anna, retired after working more than three decades as a cook in the Philadelphia school system but helps out at the restaurant. His mother, Linda, worked two jobs to support her family. She also can be found at Deborah's Kitchen.
"They all work," Harrison said. "They're all doing what they love to do: cook."
Those close to Harrison work because they want to, not out of necessity after he earned approximately $70 million for 13 years of service with the Colts. He shrugged off the notion of buying a multi-million-dollar home or other luxuries athletes have purchased.
"You can't over-live your means," he said. "The big house for $7 million? Nah. Don't need one. My grandmother has a nice home. My mom has a nice home, my two aunts. Everybody has a nice place to live.
"That's what's important."
Got it done, quietly
Only Peyton Manning put up numbers as outlandish as Harrison in Indianapolis Colts history: 1,102 receptions, 14,580 yards, 128 touchdowns. All rank among the top-7 in NFL history. He's the only player in NFL history with eight consecutive seasons with at least 1,000 receiving yards and 10 touchdowns. He averaged 5.8 catches per game. Jerry Rice averaged 5.2.
Yet no one seemed to go about his business on a quieter stage. For much of his career, Harrison focused on his craft. He only rarely opened up about his game or himself with the media.
In a 2008 interview with the Philadelphia Inquirer, Dungy said he respected Harrison's privacy "because that's the way he wants it."
"He was not a real out-going person," added long-time Colts offensive coordinator Tom Moore. "But I'll tell you this he came to work every morning, brought his lunch pail and worked his tail off. When practices were over and the day was done, he went home."
Aaron Moorehead, a Colts receiver from 2003-07 and currently the receivers coach at Virginia Tech, was Harrison's roommate for several summers at training camp in Terre Haute.
Moorehead considers himself outgoing, but nearly met his match when paired with Harrison.
"I didn't want to be a roommate with somebody for three weeks and having nothing to sit there and talk about. That's boring," Moorehead said. "I was one of those, 'Hey, how you doin' and how's your kid doin'?' guys. After a while, Marv would open up to me.
"I loved that about him. He kept his personal life to himself as much as he could. That was just who he was."
Teammate Edgerrin James occasionally tried to change who Harrison was. The Colts' career rushing leader was impressed with Harrison's elite skills, and urged his teammate to shout about it.
"In practice he'd tell me, 'Man, if I were you I'd talk so much they'd all hate me,' " Harrison said, laughing.
Harrison wrinkled his brow when asked about his sporadic interaction with the media, particularly late in his career.
"I wouldn't call it private," he said. "Some people have big mouths, some people go about their lives quietly."
That's still true. Not surprisingly, Harrison doesn't have Twitter or Facebook accounts.
"Nothing. Nothing," he said. "I don't see the point in it. Call me and we can discuss whatever you want to discuss."
One issue Harrison declined to discuss was an April 2008 shooting incident in the vicinity of his North Philly bar, Playmakers. One individual was shot in the hand and an infant injured by shattered glass. Although a gun owned by Harrison was used in the shooting and he was questioned, Harrison wasn't charged. The man who was shot was later gunned down but Harrison wasn't questioned about that shooting.
Pursuit of perfection
Harrison chased the impossible, first as a two-sport star at Philadelphia's Roman Catholic High School, then at Syracuse University, finally after the Colts selected him with the 19th overall pick in the 1996 draft.
Gotta be perfect. Nothing less.
"No one's ever perfect, but you've got to strive for it," he said.
That was the foundation of Harrison's meticulous approach to practice.
"Never, never, never missed practice," Manning said of his long-time pitch-and-catch partner. "He treated practice like a game: full speed."
When it came time for offense vs. defense drills, Harrison insisted on running routes against a starting cornerback, not a backup or practice-squad player.
"He didn't feel like he could improve by going against the practice squad ... thought it would be a waste of time," Manning said.
Manning recalled delivering an incomplete pass during a Week 12 practice one season. Harrison stopped, stunned as the football skipped to the ground. He later informed Manning it was the first incompletion in one-on-one work since Week 2.
"The fact he was keeping tabs on that, to me, was impressive," Manning said. "He did not want the ball to hit the ground. Ever."
Practice was when Harrison honed his craft, lifted it to Hall of Fame-caliber status. That's when he became an exquisite route runner who routinely bedazzled cornerbacks.
"When you ran a (specific) route, it had to be 15 yards," he said. "Not 16 and not 14. When I watched film, I might have been good, but I knew I could be better.
"I knew how things were supposed to be. Perfect."
Harrison recalled a practice-related conversation with Dungy.
"I told coach Dungy in a joking way that, 'I'm the highest-paid practice player in the league. You pay me to practice. The games are on me,' " he said. "That was my motto. Who wouldn't want to play on Sunday?"
Safely stowed in a room at Harrison's Philadelphia home are some 130 footballs from his 190-game career with the Colts that serve as a timeline for his Hall of Fame candidacy. He has his first NFL touchdown catch from Manning Sept. 6, 1998 against Miami and the last, Dec. 7, 2008 against Cincinnati.
At some point, the balls will be ripped apart and made into a sofa.
"Haven't gotten around to it yet," Harrison said, smiling.
Back at his business, another of Harrison's collections sits in an adjoining garage. Limited-edition pace cars from the Indianapolis 500 and Daytona 500 are neatly situated. There's a 1990 IROC-Z Camaro, the final year it was manufactured.
"I've always been into cars. Always. You didn't know that?" he asked, running his hand along the shiny front quarter panel of a Corvette. "Everybody needs a hobby. Cars are my hobby."
Harrison's eyes lit up as he pointed to a pair of limited-edition Buick Grand Nationals.
"That one up there is a GNX. Now that car is the ultimate," he said. "They only made 471 on those."
Harrison purchased the GNX from a collector in North Carolina, who had bought it from someone in Indianapolis. As it turned out, this particular Grand National was No. 88 off the assembly line. That was Harrison's jersey number.
"Guess it was meant to be," he said.
The routine seldom changes. After Harrison adds another car to his collection he's hoping a Stingray leads this year's Indy 500 he drives it for perhaps a week and 120 miles.
"Then I park 'em," he said.
At some point, the collection will be handed down to Marvin Jr.
"He gets everything," Harrison said. "He just can't drive 'em."
Harrison's NFL career ended Feb. 24, 2009 when the Colts, unable to convince him to accept a pay cut, terminated the final three years of his contract. Six weeks earlier, Dungy had retired.
"It was time," Harrison said. "I had the perfect owner (Jim Irsay), the perfect team, one team my whole career, Dungy leaving, I played my one year in the new stadium (Lucas Oil) ...''
He remains moved by his relationship with the fans in Indianapolis.
"I don't think I was ever booed one time. I'm serious," he said. "I'm proud I was able to represent the city of Indianapolis and we won some games."
Although he declined to identify them, a few teams showed an interest in signing him. Harrison was confident he still could be productive, but never gave extending his career serious consideration.
"I didn't want to go cross-country and play again. I didn't want to go anywhere else," he said. "Some people don't know how to call it quits. They keep on going and going.
"I was totally healthy. It was a perfect ending."
Again, Harrison paused. His eyes brightened and he considered his collection of cars in the back room.
"Had a great time and I was gone," he said, waving his right hand. "Got in my Corvette and went down the road."
Call Star reporter Mike Chappell at (317) 444-6830. You can follow him on Twitter at @mchappell51.