His route running? Precise.
His speed? Sickening quick.
His hands? Damn good.
But former Indianapolis Colts receiver Marvin Harrison wasn't one to tout his own greatness. That wasn’t his style. And, no one should expect Harrison to gloat about his career accomplishments when he gives his Hall of Fame speech Saturday, according to those who know him.
“What is the average: Ten minutes? Seven minutes tops. Five to seven minutes?” former teammate and current Colts linebacker Robert Mathis asked. “We’re entertainers, make no mistake about it. But he was very professional. I guess I’m a homer for saying this, but he was the best receiver to me. I saw what he did in practice. He didn’t joke around and do all the extra stuff.”
Being flamboyant and brash isn’t in Harrison's DNA. He was a silent assassin on the field during a time when other players at his position didn’t hold back their excitement when they made an extraordinary play. Harrison compiled 1,102 receptions, 14,580 yards and 128 touchdowns during his 13-year career.
“If Marvin wanted to get back at someone who was talking to him, then he just wanted the ball,” said former Colts coach Tony Dungy, who will also be enshrined into the Hall of Fame this weekend. “Verbal conversation, that wasn’t him. It wasn’t important. Can you cover me and can I get open? That’s all. Probably not the typical wide receiver-type deal, but Marvin preferred to do it differently.”
Terrell Owens wanted you to have your popcorn ready, and he even pulled a Sharpie out of his sock after one score to sign the football. Randy Moss riled up the fans in Green Bay by acting like he was mooning them in the end zone. Keyshawn Johnson has a book titled “Just Throw Me the Damn Ball.”
“Marvin played the game so well, so quietly in the midst of the receiver divas,” Hall of Fame receiver Michael Irvin said. “Marvin and Peyton [Manning] understood the cerebral side of the game. It wasn’t yelling ‘Hey look at what I’m doing’ attitude. It was just calm football that blew your mind away.”
Harrison didn’t show it, but the fire burned inside of him. He didn’t want to just win, he wanted to thoroughly humiliate his opponent. So much so that Colts owner Jim Irsay put Harrison at the top of his list of the most competitive players he has known.
“More than anyone I’ve ever been around,” Irsay said. “Dangerous. If you get too close to it, you’re going to get burned. You touch that, you’re going to get burned. It was like walking [on] a piece of fire. The fact that he hid it made it that much more intense.
“I’m just telling you one thing: That guy wanted to win, and he wanted to beat you. There was something about it, maybe there was something in his childhood -- I’m not a psychologist and I’m not going to get into that sort of stuff -- but I want to tell you something: He was the fiercest guy going after this thing that I’ve been around in my days, honest to god.”
That intensity led to Harrison recording at least 1,000 yards receiving and 10 touchdowns in eight consecutive seasons. He also was an eight-time Pro Bowler and six-time All-Pro selection. Harrison was second in league history in receptions when he retired in 2008.
"He was highly confident in his own abilities," said former Colts general manager and Hall of Famer Bill Polian. "He knew how good he was and expected to play up to that standard every week. He took great pride in how consistent he was."