SANTA CLARA, Calif. (February 7, 2016) – As the sellout crowd at Levi’s Stadium filed in and the hype mounted for Super Bowl 50, the most prolific pitch-and-catch tandem in NFL history shared a special moment.
Marvin Harrison sought out Peyton Manning.
Harrison was on hand Sunday afternoon to be announced as a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s Class of 2016. Manning was busy going through his pre-game routine before leading the Denver Broncos against the Carolina Panthers.
“I saw Peyton and I didn’t want to stand next to him too long,’’ Harrison said. “I said, ‘Peyton, what’s up?’ He came running over to me. I was like, ‘Wait, relax.’
“He was real excited and I’m real excited for him. He’s just real excited for the Colts organization as a whole, myself and Tony (Dungy) and Mr. Irsay. He’s excited and I’m happy for him that he has a chance to get another Super Bowl.’’
The encounter was brief, but poignant.
From 1998 to 2008, Harrison and Manning terrorized NFL defenses. They set league records for a quarterback-receiver tandem with 953 completions, 12,766 yards and 112 touchdowns. They were instrumental in the Colts winning a league-record 115 games in the 2000s and capturing their first world championship in three decades with a 29-17 decision over Chicago in Super Bowl XLI.
Elation swept through Harrison Saturday evening when he was informed he would be enshrined Aug. 6 in Canton, Ohio. Manning will experience a similar chill five years after he decides to retire, which could be after Sunday’s game.
That would add to what’s been a landmark weekend for owner Jim Irsay and his Colts franchise. Along with Harrison, coach Tony Dungy was selected to the Class of 2016. Running back Edgerrin James failed to garner enough support in his second year of eligibility.
Last year, former long-time executive Bill Polian was enshrined.
To be selected along with Dungy, Harrison said, “means a ton. (He’s) a guy that I can relate to, that I played with for so many years.
“I’ve learned a lot from Tony as a person, as a father figure and everything. It means a lot. When I saw him today, I was like, ‘Oh my God!’ It was like I had never left him. To go in with Tony, some things work out for the best.’’
Irsay made certain Harrison was on hand for Sunday’s ceremonies. He sent his private jet to Philadelphia to deliver Harrison to the West Coast.
“It’s kind of personal,’’ Harrison said, declining to elaborate on his flight, “but Jimmy has never, ever told me ‘No’ for anything I wanted. Whether it be a contract or whatever, Jimmy has always given it to me.
“He always takes care of me.’’
Even though the Class of 2016 were announced to the crowd in the first quarter, Harrison admitted he hasn’t gotten used to being referred to as a Hall of Famer.
“It hasn’t set in yet,’’ he said. “I’ve got to wait a little bit. Maybe the day I put the jacket on it will change a little. But right now, I’m definitely still in the moment. Once everything settles down and I’ll see if I can think about it.
“When I see Kevin Greene, Mr. DeBartolo, Orlando Pace . . . when I saw coach Dungy I was like, ‘Oh my God.’ It’s like ‘I just saw you yesterday.’ He was definitely excited and I was definitely excited going in with him. And to have Peyton here playing today, it’s a big day for Indianapolis.
“I remember coming in ’96. To be able to bring a Super Bowl there and have a bunch of great players come out of there, coaches and general managers. For me personally to be a part of Jim Irsay’s team in Indianapolis just meant a lot to me.
“This is special. You never take this for granted, what your career’s going to end up being like. Then you finally get here and you see all the people that wear the gold jacket. It’s just a part of history that can never be erased.’’