meetings and practice on any given day during the NFL season, he can
be seen in front of his neatly kept locker at the Indianapolis Colts
practice complex, eating a Tastykake and reading a three-day-old Philadelphia
Daily News. That’s Marvin Harrison.
On the field he’ll make the difficult play look
routine. He’ll beat a defensive back, score a touchdown, and just hand
the ball to the official. That’s Marvin Harrison.
Off the field he donates his time and money to the Indianapolis,
Syracuse, and Philadelphia communities. That, too, is Marvin Harrison.
Ask Colts receivers coach Jay Norvell about the
6-foot, 181-pound All-Pro receiver, and he will say Harrison is among
the NFL’s best. He will also tell you that Harrison is a quiet man who
isn’t interested in the limelight.
"I’ve never been a loud guy,”
says Harrison, a 1995 graduate of the College for Human Development.
“It’s just the way I am. I’m not the type of guy who looks for a lot
of attention on the field. Off the field I let my actions speak for
With his play and service to the community, Harrison
makes a lot of people happy, but his intake of junk food must drive
the nutrition gurus crazy. Harrison’s diet consists of sugar cereals,
fast food, and sweet treats. Along with the Tastykakes, he enjoýs feasting
on Pillsbury ready-made cookies and Reese’s peanut butter cups. Every
week he has five boxes of Tastykakes shipped from his hometown of Philadelphia
to Indianapolis. This shipment pattern started when Harrison was at
Syracuse. “I grew up on junk food,” he says. “I figure I'll eat the
way I’ve always eaten. It’s gotten me this far.”
This far is quite a ways for the five-year NFL veteran.
Coming out of Syracuse, Harrison was the 19th overall pick and fourth
receiver selected in the 1996 NFL draft. Since then, he has become one
of the league’s most dangerous receivers. His pro career numbers of
413 receptions for 5,554 yards and 47 touchdowns are greater than those
of the three receivers drafted ahead of him— Keyshawn Johnson, Terry
Glenn, and Eddie Kennison. In fact, no player in NFL history has caught
more passes in the first five years of his career than Harrison. These
startling numbers have also earned him All-Pro honors the past two seasons.
As Norvell points out, Harrison makes difficult
plays look very easy. In a 1999 game against the Buffalo Bills, the
Colts had a third and goal from the five-yard line. Harrison lined up
on the left side against double coverage. When the ball was snapped,
he moved left and then broke back inside, grabbing a bullet thrown by
Colts quarterback Peyton Manning for a touchdown.
It’s not an easy play to execute, but Harrison
has almost perfected the double move, feigning one pass pattern and
then changing direction to another pass route in an instant. With his
experience, Harrison says he knows how to get defensive backs in positions
they don’t want to be in. “It’s all about the illusion,” he says of
the double move. “The defensive back thinks I’m running an out route.
He thinks he’s got the route covered and then it changes and I’m open.
It’s more determination and precision in running the route.”
The receiver’s precision route-running left a mark
on Syracuse football. A member of the SU All-Century Team and 1990s
All-Big East Team, Harrison is the University's all-time leader in receptions
(135) and receiving yards (2,728). His 56-reception, 1,131-yard, 8-touchdown
senior year earned him All-America honors from the American Football
Harrison—who remains loyal to his alma mater—credits
the big-time college football atmosphere at Syracuse with preparing
him well for the NFL. He also keeps in touch with other SU alumni in
the NFL, talking frequently with Cleveland Browns receiver Kevan Johnson
and Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb.
What you won’t hear Harrison talk about is his
service work. He donates funds to SU’s Operation Link Up, a program
that gives high school minority students an opportunity to prepare for
the college experience. Both Norvell and Ryan Robinson, the Colts"
assistant director of media relations, say they know of Harrison’s selfless
work, but they never hear him talk about it. Instead, they witness the
difference he makes.
One day at the Colts’ training camp, Robinson noticed
about 40 youths wearing Harrison’s number 88 jersey. They were guests
of Harrison, who was hosting the group from the Terre Haute (Indiana)
Hyte Youth Center. He purchased the jerseys for them and then treated
the group to lunch. And the week the Colts played at Philadelphia in
late November 1999, Harrison went to Philly on Tuesday, his off day,
to give out 88 turkeys in the city.
Just as Harrison is on the field, he is the same
off it—quiet and successful. “As long as people are happy,” he says,
“I know I did a good job.”
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