Marvin Harrison wasn’t known for talking smack and going crazy whenever he scored a touchdown.
Quite the opposite, actually.
While Harrison barely uttered a word, his play on the gridiron was loud and emphatic.
We’re talking about the wide receiver with the ninth-most receiving yards and fifth-most receiving touchdowns in NFL history.
We’re also talking about a member of the Indianapolis Colts Ring of Honor.
No wonder Marvin Harrison is enshrined in Canton, OH.
Despite the off-field controversy Harrison has stirred in recent years, he remains one of the best wideouts to ever wear the Horseshoe.
Marvin Darnell Harrison was born in Philadelphia, PA on August 25, 1972.
Harrison grew up at North 24th and West Thompson Streets, per ESPN.
He was just two years old when his father passed away at just twenty-two years of age due to natural causes.
GQ identified the father as Marvin Greer, a gang member who had three sons with three different women.
A decade later, his mother Linda moved him and his sister to the Northwest section of the city.
Raising two children by herself, Linda Harrison worked two jobs to make ends meet.
Marvin would take it all in and eventually develop the discipline and work ethic that made him a legendary wide receiver in the National Football League some two decades later.
He also practiced that work ethic when he worked as a busboy at a Friendly’s restaurant during his high school days.
Harrison also worked several summer jobs including hauling equipment, mowing grass, painting football stands, and cleaning locker rooms.
He earned an estimated $4,500 for his efforts every summer.
Marvin Harrison attended Roman Catholic High School in Philly.
Philly Native & Roman Catholic High School Grad Marvin Harrison is elected into the Pro Football Hall of Fame pic.twitter.com/beCmMKeizQ
— Jeff Skversky (@JeffSkversky) February 7, 2016
He excelled in two sports: basketball and football.
The diligent Harrison wore a tie to school daily, attended class religiously, and hit the books hard.
Harrison singled out one high school teacher during his Pro Football Hall of Fame enshrinement speech in 2016: Joe Ferrero.
Mr. Ferrero promised him he would watch at least one of his games live every year when he made it to the NFL.
He eventually made good on his promise.
“He wouldn’t let me buy him a ticket,” Harrison said in his enshrinement speech. “He wouldn’t let me buy him a dinner, a hotel room, nothing.”
Not much is known about Harrison’s high school football resume.
However, the sheer number of universities that wanted him was indicative of his performance on the gridiron.
The nuns and priests at Roman Catholic High School wanted Harrison to go to the University of Notre Dame.
Harrison’s high school football coach, Ed Brodbine, echoed their sentiment. Brodbine was a staunch Notre Dame Fighting Irish fan.
On the other hand, a math teacher who tutored Harrison for his SAT preferred he play for Joe Paterno’s Penn State Nittany Lions.
Then-Syracuse Orange tight ends and special teams coordinator Bob Casullo told Syracuse.com’s Nate Mink in September 2014 everybody wanted a piece of Marvin Harrison:
“Everybody wanted Marvin Harrison, trust me. And everybody did what they had to do to get Marvin Harrison.”
“I had a guy say to me, ‘How much are you offering him?’ I said I recruit for Syracuse University. I get $23 a day to eat on, and I eat about $50 of food a day, so I don’t have any money to give him.”
Casullo gave his word to Linda Harrison he’d take care of her only son. He also guaranteed he would get a college degree at Syracuse.
When Syracuse Orange head football coach Paul Pasqualoni flew to Philadelphia to make his final visit, Harrison raced upstairs and told the other football programs he had chosen Syracuse, per Mink.
Pasqualoni had no idea Harrison had made up his mind.
Casullo eventually broke the news to Pasqualoni and his staff during one of their Sunday meetings. Harrison didn’t want word to leak out to the press.
The highly-touted wideout from Philly signed with the Orange three days later.
Marvin Harrison would re-write the Syracuse Orange record books and become one of the best wide receivers in the nation in the next few years.
College Days With The Syracuse Orange
Marvin Harrison majored in retail management at Syracuse University.
Harrison was a four-year starter for Orange head football coach Paul Pasqualoni from 1992 to 1995.
During that time frame, he caught passes from quarterbacks Marvin Graves and Donovan McNabb.
Harrison also played on special teams as a punt returner.
He got off to a slow start in his college football career.
Harrison had just two receptions and 23 receiving yards in his true freshman season in 1992.
The Orange won ten of twelve games.
Sixth-ranked Syracuse beat the 10th-ranked Colorado Buffaloes in the 1993 Fiesta Bowl, 26-22.
Harrison had a combined 1,574 receiving yards and 12 touchdowns in his next two seasons at Syracuse.
The Orange won a combined thirteen games and didn’t receive a bowl invite during that span.
Marvin Harrison served notice he was one of the best wideouts in the country during his senior year in 1995.
He set a new school record with 1,131 receiving yards. He also had eight touchdowns for good measure.
Syracuse won nine of twelve games in Harrison’s final year in New York’s capital.
Harrison finished his college football career with a bang.
The Orange manhandled the 23rd-ranked Clemson Tigers 41-0 in the 1996 Gator Bowl on New Year’s Day.
Marvin Harrison concluded his stellar career on the college gridiron with a school record 2,728 career receiving yards.
He also had 20 touchdowns as a member of the Orange.
Harrison also had 542 punt return yards and two punts returned for touchdowns once he played his final college down.
According to Syracuse.com, he was never late for practices and meetings.
He also earned the respect of his teammates for his work ethic and quiet leadership style.
While Harrison made big play after big play for the Orange, he had a reputation for being a reticent person on and off the football field.
“We spent a lot of time together,” Orange lineman Cy Ellsworth told ESPN in 2009. “But I still can’t tell you that much about Marvin. There was a side to him he didn’t let people invade.”
It’s a trend that continued during his pro football career and beyond.
Marvin Harrison would join an Indianapolis Colts juggernaut that regularly tore the opposition during his legendary NFL career.
Pro Football Career
The Indianapolis Colts made Marvin Harrison the 19th overall selection of the 1996 NFL Draft.
The Colts obtained the draft rights to Harrison when they traded quarterback Jeff George to the Atlanta Falcons on March 25, 1994.
Harrison was part of a stellar 1996 wide receiver draft class that included Keyshawn Johnson, Terrell Owens, Joe Horn, Amani Toomer, Terry Glenn, Eric Moulds, and Muhsin Muhammad.
— Marcus Mosher (@Marcus_Mosher) March 4, 2021
While the Colts won nine games and reached the Wild Card round in Harrison’s rookie season in 1996, they struggled mightily in the next two years.
During that stretch, Indianapolis won just three games per year.
Harrison lived up to his billing as one of the best wide receivers from the college ranks. He averaged seven touchdowns in his first three pro seasons.
From 1999 to 2006, Harrison had at least 1,113 receiving yards in a season.
The Colts averaged a gaudy thirteen wins during that span.
Harrison set the single-season reception record in 2002.
He made his record-breaking 124th catch during a game against the Cleveland Browns on December 15, 2002.
Harrison broke Detroit Lions wide receiver Herman Moore’s previous record of 123 receptions. Moore set the previous record seven years earlier.
Harrison finished the game with 172 receiving yards and two touchdowns.
December 15, 2002: Colts WR Marvin Harrison has 9 catches for 172 yards and 2 TDs, and breaks Herman Moore’s single-season reception record of 123. Harrison finished the season with 143 receptions (🎥 via NFL) pic.twitter.com/plo0dnS7I9
— This Day In Sports Clips (@TDISportsClips) December 15, 2020
He established career-highs of 143 receptions and 1,722 receiving yards in the 2002 NFL season.
No other wideout had more than 123 receptions in a season from 2003 to 2013, per Yahoo! Sports’ Frank Schwab.
Truly, Marvin Harrison was in a different stratosphere among wide receivers.
Harrison’s 1,366 receiving yards and 12 touchdowns helped Indianapolis win twelve games in the 2006 NFL season.
The Colts’ memorable campaign culminated in a stirring 29-17 victory over the Chicago Bears in Super Bowl XLI on February 4, 2007.
After eleven NFL seasons, Marvin Harrison finally earned a Super Bowl ring.
Even when Harrison moved up to second all-time in career receptions, he barely showed any emotion.
While other players revel when they achieve career milestones, Marvin Harrison treats them like they’re nothing out of the ordinary.
When Harrison recorded his 1,102nd career catch on December 28, 2008, he never pumped his fist, screamed, or chest-bumped his teammates.
Instead, he simply tucked the ball under his arm and made his way to the Colts’ sideline while 66,271 fans at the brand-new Lucas Oil Stadium erupted in thunderous applause.
Harrison hugged his head coach Tony Dungy and didn’t say anything even in the aftermath of his latest accolade.
During Harrison’s playing days with the Colts, he never wore gloves during practice because they didn’t present much of a challenge, per GQ.com.
He also told ESPN’s Suzy Kolber his go-to restaurants in Indianapolis were McDonald’s, Wendy’s, and a local Chinese buffet.
“If Wendy’s has a long line, I go right across the street to Mickey D’s,” Harrison told Kolber (via GQ.com). “That’s how it works.”
Harrison also told ESPN his favorite snack is Pillsbury Doughboy.
How he maintains a lean, 185-lb. physique remains a mystery.
Even though Marvin Harrison burned the best defensive backs with ease every Sunday, he had another side to him on and off the gridiron.
Throughout Marvin Harrison’s illustrious 13-year NFL career, his teammates, coaches, and confidants had always known him as a quiet and somewhat reclusive individual.
“Marvin has a force field around him,” former Pro Bowl defensive end Marcellus Wiley told ESPN in 2009. “He’s the guy leaning against the wall, not dancing, while everyone else boogies to their favorite song.”
Even legendary quarterback Peyton Manning, who was Harrison’s teammate from 1998 to 2008, didn’t know much about the mysterious wide receiver.
Manning only got to know more about Harrison when he visited him in his hometown of Philadelphia one offseason.
“There’s a Marvin in Philly and a Marvin in Indianapolis,” Manning told ESPN before Super Bowl XLI.
Marvin Harrison only because he is quiet and nobody remembers exactly how good he was pic.twitter.com/QTbjwbqfGB
— Camden Felton (@felton_camden) October 22, 2021
While Harrison doesn’t talk much, he does have a fiery temper.
A New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority (NJSEA) report and two witnesses (via ESPN) said Harrison bumped a 23-year-old New York Jets ball boy named Matt Prior in the chest and grabbed him by the throat after the latter thew a ball that bounced in the Colts wide receiver’s space on the field.
“You threw the ball at me!” Harrison screamed. “You’re a professional! You should do your job better than that!”
Harrison was so strong he lifted Prior off the ground.
While Jets fans in attendance encouraged Prior to fight back, security personnel stepped in and intervened.
Doctors discovered marks around Prior’s neck. Security manager Dan Santos told ESPN it was “a violent incident.” He also added he and his men were “one step from making an arrest.”
Prior declined to press charges against Harrison. Instead, he requested an apology that the Colts wideout never gave. For its part, the NJSEA escalated the case to New Jersey state police, who made no further action.
Two years later, a police report and a witness (via ESPN) said Harrison and his entourage went berserk against a group of teenagers who wanted his autograph at the Hilton Hawaiian Village Hotel in Honolulu, HI.
Harrison declined their request. When they persisted, he allegedly swung at one of the teens, grabbed him by the throat, and wrapped his arm around his neck.
Harrison and Co. fled the scene shortly afterward.
“I was walking about three feet behind these kids,” the witness told ESPN The Magazine. “Harrison and his friends acted like real punks.”
For some reason, no charges were pressed against Marvin Harrison.
This author personally saw Harrison clam up on stage during the Indianapolis Colts’ Super Bowl XLI victory parade at the old RCA Dome in Indianapolis, IN on February 5, 2007.
The Colts celebrated with fans a day after they beat the Chicago Bears to secure their first Vince Lombardi Trophy since moving to Indianapolis in 1984.
Most of Harrison’s teammates were whooping it up on the stage.
They literally had to drag him to the podium so he could thank the fans in attendance. He just smiled and barely uttered a word.
Just before Harrison’s 13th and final pro football season, he made headlines for the wrong reasons.
Harrison got into an argument and a fistfight with burly 5’11”, 280-lb. ex-convict Dwight Dixon at the former’s Playmakers bar in Philly on April 29, 2008.
“I was getting my a** kicked,” Dixon told ESPN nine months later.
It was ironic considering he outweighed the 185-lb. Harrison by almost 100 pounds.
Dixon drove off in his Toyota truck after the melee and then pulled over in front of Harrison’s Chuckie’s Garage where they argued some more.
This man was shot by a gun that was owned by Marvin Harrison. Yet, T.O. Standing on a Star is too much…. pic.twitter.com/NWCSWTENZg
— NFL Draft Diamonds (@DraftDiamonds) February 7, 2016
A bullet went through Dixon’s hand as he held on to the steering wheel.
Dixon told ESPN it was Harrison who pulled the trigger.
Apparently not content, Harrison fired more bullets that shattered the truck’s rear window. The bullets also struck a Mercury sedan and a bystander named Robert Nixon. Another bullet narrowly missed Dixon’s leg.
Dixon stepped on the gas and burned rubber with blown-out tires in an effort to save his life.
When police interrogated Harrison for two hours, he admitted to exchanging blows with Dixon.
However, he denied the shooting incident. He claimed the gun was at his suburban home which is a 30-minute drive from Chuckie’s Garage on West Thompson Street.
Harrison also told authorities he hadn’t fired the gun since he bought it two years earlier.
However, Robert Nixon begged to differ.
He told investigators he saw Harrison holding a gun during his fight with Dixon.
On the other hand, a man named “Bill,” who claimed he’s a good friend of Harrison, told Syracuse.com the shooting accusation against the Colts legend was sheer nonsense.
“It was bull—t,” he said. “And to bring it back up is even more bull—t now.”
Marvin Harrison somehow evaded criminal charges due to conflicting accounts of the April 2009 shooting.
The 33-year-old Dixon died in September 2009 due to gunshot wounds he sustained in a separate incident.
Authorities have yet to identify Dixon’s assailant.
While Marvin Harrison’s off-field life has been shrouded in controversy, there’s no denying he set the bar high on the gridiron.
When the Colts granted Harrison’s request for a release on February 25, 2009, team owner Jim Irsay sang his praises, per The Associated Press (via ESPN):
“I’ve always treasured the time I’ve had with him because I respected him so much as a person.”
“He worked so hard at his craft, he was always so prepared and he did every little thing he could to win. And he did it with quiet dignity, superb professionalism, and with a sense of contribution to the team that really is second to none.”
Several Pro Bowl defensive backs also spoke highly of Harrison, per Colts.com.
Charles Woodson considered him “the best receiver I played against.”
Champ Bailey told the Colts’ official website Harrison was “the guy who gave me the most problems.”
Charles Tillman said Harrison was the “hardest person I ever had to cover” and “the best I ever played against.”
Happy birthday to Hall of Fame WR Marvin Harrison! @Colts
🙌 1,102 catches
🙌 14,580 receiving yards
🙌 Super Bowl XLI Champion
🙌 NFL 2000s All-Decade Team pic.twitter.com/a9EIfgccOt
— NFL Throwback (@nflthrowback) August 25, 2020
Harrison, an eight-time Pro Bowler, had 14,580 receiving yards and 128 touchdowns on 1,102 receptions in his 13-year NFL career.
As of January 2022, Marvin Harrison is ninth all-time among receiving yards career leaders.
He is also fifth all-time in terms of receiving touchdowns.
Marvin Harrison and his wife Dawne have two sons: Marvin, Jr. and Jett.
Harrison’s son and namesake, Marvin, Jr., is currently a wide receiver for the Ohio State Buckeyes. He is a finance major.
Harrison keeps every touchdown ball he’s caught. He puts them inside single boxes in his home, per ESPN.
As of 2009, Harrison had been running several businesses in Philadelphia including Chuckie’s garage, Playmakers sports bar, his mother Linda’s Italian restaurant, and his aunt’s soul food restaurant.
He had a total of 20 properties in the Northern Philadelphia area that year.
Harrison is an active landlord whom kids regularly see fixing shutters in one of his properties on their way to school, per ESPN.
He also works the door of Playmakers.
The Indianapolis Colts inducted Harrison into their Ring of Honor on November 27, 2011.
Harrison literally dodged a few bullets six years after his retirement from the gridiron.
According to the Philadelphia Daily News‘ David Gambacorta, assailants shot in the direction of Harrison and another man twice on June 15, 2014.
Harrison was driving his Ford F-350 pickup truck in the Wynnefield Heights area of Philadelphia at 3:20 a.m.
A 38-year-old man wearing boxer shorts flagged him down and begged him to call 911 and ride in his pickup bed.
It turned out two burglars who broke into the man’s apartment were chasing him. They stole $500 in cash from the man.
The perpetrators, who both wore masks and dark clothing, saw the victim conversing with Harrison. One of them pulled out a gun and fired twice in their direction.
Fortunately, both Harrison and the man were unscathed in the incident. However, the bullet eventually flattened one of Harrison’s tires.
The Colts legend agreed to hand over the damaged tire to authorities, per Gambacorta.
Coaches play such a significant role in the lives of their players, but I can’t help but think how amazing it was that the 1st person Marvin Harrison thanked in his Hall of Fame speech was not a coach, but a TEACHER. #NFLSunday #sunchat pic.twitter.com/mOq1p4ECNm
— Nicholas Ferroni (@NicholasFerroni) September 15, 2019
The Pro Football Hall of Fame inducted Marvin Harrison in 2016.
Not too many people knew about his inner circle.
However, former Indianapolis Colts head coach Jim Mora is a member of that group.
In Harrison’s Pro Football Hall of Fame enshrinement speech, he mentioned Mora is his “best friend as a coach”:
“Jim Mora’s probably my best friend as a head coach. Every day he came to me during my spot in line – the stretching line.”
“He talked about his family, the time in Philadelphia. He talked about – he and I would talk about what we’re going to eat for dinner at night. Me and Jim were best of friends.”
Harrison also gave props to Reggie Wayne, a wide receiver he played with from 2001 to 2008:
“My partner, Reggie. Reggie Wayne, man. I couldn’t ask for a better partner than you. I trusted Reggie with my life. If I had to go across the middle and I knew Reggie had to clear it out for me, I knew fully well he was going to get his job done.”
Harrison is also a member of the NFL 2000s All-Decade Team and the NFL 100th Anniversary All-Time Team.
Harrison, who already owned more than eighty properties in Philadelphia in 2018, allegedly went after a tenant with a baseball bat that spring.
— Terez Owens (@TerezOwens) April 25, 2018
Despite the mystery that is Marvin Harrison, he remains one of the best wide receivers in the history of the National Football League.