Don Larson  


Between 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 themselves.”
      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 Coaches Association.
      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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