Item: Fresh off his weekend induction at Canton, Ohio joining the other great pro football immortals not only among his fellow class of inductees (including Brett Favre, and Harrison’s last NFL coach Tony Dungy), but also the many past enshrinees (303 total) on stage and those that were scattered among the large audience that will one day join the former Orange great (1992-95) in the Hall (Peyton Manning), it was refreshing to simply hear from the famously reclusive record-shattering receiver. The Philadelphia scholastic star recruited by Paul Pasqualoni during an early 1990s era of many consecutive bowl game appearances, some on New Year’s Day, went on to become SU’s all time leading receiver, and has always maintained a distinct indifference to discussing his life, making the spotlight shone on him during both the pre-ceremony press conferences and his acceptance speech the rare opportunities to reveal bits and pieces of his persona.
Syracuse University football is in rare company when it comes to producing members of the 53 year old Pro Football Hall of Fame, the distinctively-shaped building with a football through its roof situated along I-77 in Canton with the adjoining Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium, site of the annual induction ceremony (which, unfortunately, will be known this year for the cancelation of the annual NFL pre-season opener due to poor playing field conditions).
Only three schools in college football history have produced more pro hall of fame members. Notre Dame now has 13 with 2016 inductee Edward DeBartolo, Jr. the former San Francisco 49ers owner, Southern California has 12 enshrined, and Ohio State now has 10 members with offensive linemen Orlando Pace’s induction in this year’s class.
The Orange, along with Michigan, Pittsburgh, and Alabama, with the addition of the late quarterback Ken Stabler to this year’s group that were enshrined, each have eight in Canton, and as we wrote last October, expect to see some future Syracuse names on the initial annual ballots including first-timer Donovan McNabb (1995-98) when the first 2017 list of eligible players comes out next month.
Two other ex-‘Cuse potential one day Hall of Fame members are Dwight Freeney (1998-2001) who’s name figures to be on his first eligible ballot five years after he retires, although that’s now going to be sometime next decade after the 36 year old Freeney signed a one year contract with the Atlanta Falcons last week to play in his 15th NFL season; and kicker Gary Anderson (1978-1981) who’s second all time on the league’s scoring list, 110 points behind the leader, fellow kicker Morten Andersen, who was one of the 15 Hall finalists for a third straight year this past February.
Marvin Harrison played 13 years in the NFL, catching over 100 balls in a season four times, highlighted by his meteoric 143 receptions in 2002 playing pass and catch with Manning and forming the most lethal QB-WR duo in the history of the nearly century old league. That incredible single season mark will be nearly impossible to break, what with virtual reality technology taking over the sport and allowing for succinct preparation for both offenses and defenses to visualize every trend, nuance, strength and weakness of an opponent.
Meticulous for his on field preparation Harrison was famous for saying, “You earn your paycheck in practice, and play the games for free,” and in the months leading to the week of activities at Canton surrounding the actual induction and bust unveiling ceremony this past Saturday night, Harrison had heard talk that his unforthcoming nature might lead to the shortest acceptance speech in history, but he quickly dispelled that notion early in his turn in the spotlight.
“I’ve held a lot of records,” Harrison said matter-of-factly and while smiling at the beginning of his address. “But I’ll tell you one thing; I’m not going to break the record to have the shortest speech in Hall of Fame history. That’s not going to happen.”
Instead, Harrison used his eventual 11 minutes plus of allotted time to focus on his enjoyment of parenthood as father of sons Marvin and Jett, his family – grandmother and mother, overall, and as so many before him thanked those who contributed to his lifelong path ending in athletic glory.
Although, ironically, his remarks about Syracuse University centered solely on his first Speech 101 class in which the reticent Harrison explained that his instructor (“Mrs. Johnson”) was masterful in coaxing him throughout the semester to finally achieve the one part of the three part syllabus that he didn’t want to complete, speaking in front of the class.
With the university’s eighth member of the Hall in place, perhaps now is the perfect time for Harrison to come full circle and for both sides to work feverishly to figure out what needs to take place to get the all time ‘Cuse great back to take his well deserved bows in front of a Dome crowd one more time, and for the first time since he caught four passes for 47 yards, had a 24 yard run, and returned a punt for a touchdown in a 58-29 rout of Boston College on Nov. 18, 1995, in his home finale.
We’ll throw out the Florida State home finale this season on Nov. 19. That would sure fire up the team and Dome crowd.