Look, I could come up with a catchier headline, I’m sure. Something with puns. Kids love puns, right? But with Marvin Harrison being enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame this weekend, this isn’t about the kids for once. They’re so damn needy, those kids.
Instead of thinking about what appeals to children, let’s simply sit back and reflect on Syracuse University’s representation in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Believe it or not, only three college football programs have ever put more people in the Hall of Fame than Syracuse. Kids these days (ugh, not them again) may forget it, but Syracuse has one hell of a history.
Marvin Harrison is the eighth player in Syracuse history to be enshrined in Canton. Let’s take a quick look at his accomplishments, and run down the rest of the Syracuse alums (seven players, and one owner) who are right there beside him in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
The GOAT. Or if you’re not one of those aforementioned kids these days, that’s “greatest of all-time.” Nine seasons in the NFL for the Cleveland Browns, only to give up the sport basically to go off and film The Dirty Dozen. It’s kind of astounding that Jim Brown isn’t in the top 10 in Syracuse history in either yards or carries, but you have to remember he played in an era in which freshmen were not allowed to play.
Arguably the greatest athlete in history, Brown is considered one of the best to ever play the sport of lacrosse as well as football. He was also a double-digit scorer for the Syracuse basketball team. His 5.8 yards-per-carry in his Syracuse career rank second in Orange history, trailing only Ernie Davis – who averaged a staggering 6.6 yards-per-carry in his three seasons.
One of the greatest tight ends of all-time, sadly John Mackey is remembered too frequently for being one of the first, and most famous, cases of CTE. He died in 2011 at the age of 69 after suffering from dementia, believed to have been brought on by the numerous injuries suffered while playing football. It was Mackey, and his health problems, that forced the NFL to finally address health care for retired players.
But before that, Mackey was a five-time Pro Bowl tight end, teaming up with Johnny Unitas to win a Super Bowl along the way for the Baltimore Colts. He was named to the All-Decade Team for the 1960s, and the college football most outstanding tight end award is named the Mackey Award in his honor.
Offensive linemen have always gone overlooked, as is the case with the oft-forgotten Jim Ringo. The former Syracuse star was a 10-time Pro Bowl selection over the course of his 15 seasons with the Green Bay Packers and Philadelphia Eagles. An undersized lineman, he relied on quickness and technique to become one of the greatest centers in NFL history.
Like Mackey, Ringo was named to the All-Decade Team for the 1960s. He’s a member of both the Green Bay and Philadelphia Halls of Fame. After his playing days were finished, Ringo became a longtime coach in the NFL, serving mostly as an offensive line coach while also getting a couple shots at being an offensive coordinator. He was the head coach of the Buffalo Bills in 1976-77, and retired from coaching after serving as Buffalo’s OC from 1985-88.
While he didn’t wear the legendary 44 during his time at Syracuse, Larry Csonka is unquestionably one of the greatest to ever put on an Orange jersey. The former Miami Dolphins star (and Super Bowl MVP) is fourth in Syracuse history with 2,934 rushing yards in his career, and second in history in career yards-per-game. He picked up an average of 104.8 yards every time he took the field for Syracuse, trailing only Joe Morris in that category.
The 6-foot-3, 237 pound fullback is arguably the best to ever play the position. The Dolphins retired his famed #39 jersey after he wore it to a pair of Super Bowl victories. Csonka’s collegiate rushing numbers are even more impressive when you consider he began his career as a middle linebacker. While at Syracuse, he helped form what could eventually be an All Hall of Fame backfield, alongside…
One of the famed 44s, Floyd Little teamed with not only Csonka but also Tom Coughlin at Syracuse. With Coughlin a likely Hall of Fame inductee for his time coaching the New York Giants, it’s pretty astonishing to think that the trio played together for the Orangemen. Little took up the mantle of 44 from the late, great Ernie Davis, and wore the jersey well. A three-time Pro Bowl selection for the Denver Broncos, at the time of his retirement, he was the seventh leading rusher in NFL history.
Little captained Denver all nine seasons he was with the team, even as a rookie. He was one of the first Broncos to be inducted into the team’s Ring of Honor in 1984. Little ranks sixth in Syracuse history with 2,704 career rushing yards, and is also sixth in career yards-per-carry with 5.4 yards per tote.
When you talk about the greatest wide receivers in Syracuse history, you generally settle on two names. One is Marvin Harrison, who we’ll get to in a minute. The other is Art Monk. The former Washington Redskins standout won three Super Bowl rings during his time in the NFL, hauling in 940 receptions in a long and storied career.
Monk was the first player in NFL history to reach 900 career receptions, and his 940 catches stood as the NFL record until 1995, when it was surpassed by Jerry Rice. He was named to the All-Decade Team for the 1980s. When he was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2008, he received the longest standing ovation of any player, ever. Yes, that’s verified by NFL Films.
The one guy on this list who wasn’t actually a football player. But when it comes to colorful characters throughout NFL history, there may be no one more colorful than the late Al Davis. Davis never even attempted to make the football team at Syracuse, but believe it or not tried (and failed) repeatedly to earn a spot on Syracuse’s basketball team. Eventually, he started going to football practice and taking notes on game strategy before being asked to leave.
That careful note taking paid off, however, as Davis began a 15 year career as a coach at both the college and pro level. His biggest gig at the college level was coaching the offensive line at Southern Cal, while his pro coaching career culminated in the head coaching gig of – who else? – the Oakland Raiders. Eventually, he obviously moved into the front office, and owned the Raiders until his death in 2011.
The quiet, introverted wide receiver from Philadelphia has certainly had some controversy follow him in the years after his retirement from football. We’re not going to get into that, though, because this weekend it’s about remembering the player Marvin was, not what he is alleged to have done. Harrison still holds the NFL record with 143 receptions in a single season.
Amazingly, that’s more catches than he had in his entire career at Syracuse, yet he still ranks fourth in SU history with 135 receptions. Harrison remains Syracuse’s all-time leader in receiving yards, with 2,728, and is tied for second with 20 receiving touchdowns over the course of his four seasons. But obviously, these days Harrison is best remembered as Peyton Manning’s all-time favorite target. An eight-time Pro Bowl selection, Harrison ranks third in NFL history with 1,102 career catches. He’s also seventh in NFL history in career receiving yards, and fifth all-time in career touchdown catches. Harrison is also a Super Bowl champion, and was inducted into the Indianapolis Ring of Honor in 2011.