Jerry Rice says Marvin Harrison ‘deserves to be in the Hall of Fame’

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JACKSONVILLE, FL - OCTOBER 22: Quarterback Peyton Manning #18 and wide receiver Marvin Harrison #88 of the Indianapolis Colts meet at midfield during play against the Jacksonville Jaguars at the Jacksonville Municipal Stadium on October 22, 2007 in Jacksonville, Florida. The Colts won 29 - 7. (Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images)

SAN FRANCISCO (Feb. 5, 2016) – Jerry Rice doesn’t have a vote regarding who should join him in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, but he has a voice.

That in mind, the greatest receiver and one of the greatest players at any position in NFL history believes it’s time Marvin Harrison’s name and bronze bust are added to the exclusive assemblage in Canton, Ohio.

“I have a lot of respect for him,’’ said Rice, a first-ballot selection in 2010. “I always loved Marvin. I really loved him. I don’t see why he isn’t going to get in.

“I don’t know how they decide, but without a doubt he should be in the Hall of Fame. Hopefully he can get in because I feel like he really deserves to be the Hall of Fame.’’

Harrison, the Indianapolis Colts’ career leader in virtually every meaningful receiving category, is one of 15 modern-day finalists. He’s joined by another pair of Colts’ luminaries: coach Tony Dungy and running back Edgerrin James.

The Pro Football Hall of Fame Board of Selectors – we are a member – meets Saturday to determine the Class of 2016.

Harrison and Dungy are in their third year of eligibility and reached the Final 15 for a third time. James advanced to the Final 15 in his second year of eligibility.

The other modern-day candidates: quarterbacks Brett Favre and Kurt Warner, placekicker Morten Andersen, wide receiver Terrell Owens, safeties John Lynch and Steve Atwater, running back Terrell Davis, linebacker Kevin Greene, offensive tackles Orlando Pace and Joe Jacoby, guard Allen Faneca and coach Don Coryell.

A maximum of five modern-day candidates are elected.

Rice believes Harrison earned inclusion on that list based on 13 seasons of sustained excellence. He ranks No. 3 in NFL history with 1,102 receptions, No. 7 with 14,580 yards and No. 5 with 128 touchdowns.

Moreover, the secret to Harrison’s success was identical to Rice’s. Each was driven to be the best at his craft.

“The only person who possibly worked harder at his craft than Marvin Harrison was Jerry Rice,’’ former Colts executive and Hall of Famer Bill Polian said.

Rice agreed.

“What I liked about Marvin Harrison was his work ethic,’’ he said. “All I know is you would see Marvin Harrison and Peyton Manning out there before a game working on their game. The time that they would put in before a game was so important with the timing, getting to know each other, the body language.

“It was the same thing with me with Joe Montana and Steve Young. They got to know my body language. They could tell when I was getting ready to come out of a certain route.’’

Harrison and Manning wore out the Colts’ equipment personnel with their incessant work during the offseason, and after practices during the season. Harrison was a virtual “reps hog’’ in practice. He refused to take plays off, and insisted on working against the starting cornerbacks.

“That’s what really made him great,’’ Rice said. “I was one of those guys who believed you lead by example.’’

He understood the value of a team’s elite player also being the one who worked the hardest.

“When you do that, other guys will follow,’’ Rice said. “The numbers that he was able to put up speak for themselves.’’

It’s risky and often deceptive to compare players’ career statistics because of the differing lengths of careers. In Rice’s case, it’s simply unrealistic: 303 games, 1,549 receptions, 22,895 yards and 197 touchdowns.

However, when looking at a so-called “Triple Crown’’ among receivers that played at least 100 games, Harrison stacks up favorably with Rice.

Harrison averaged more receptions (5.8 to 5.1), yards (76.7 to 75.6) and touchdowns (.674 to .650) per game than Rice.

Rice laughed at what was the national perception of Harrison – a 6-0, 175 pounds – as a receiver.

“They always talked about his size, that he wasn’t that big,’’ he said. “But when I had the opportunity to meet him, he was bigger than I thought he would be. It was like, ‘Why did they always say he was a small guy and didn’t have the quickness and all that?’ He did.

“And I don’t know why the talked about him not being fast. He could come out of his cuts and he could run by people, he could set people.

“Marvin Harrison did everything that a great receiver should be capable of doing.’’