In the history of professional football, two schools stand above the rest when it comes to Hall of Fame inductees. Notre Dame and Southern California each have 12 members, while Ohio State has the third highest total at nine. After that, two schools – Michigan and Pittsburgh – have eight inductees. Tonight, Syracuse could join the Wolverines and Panthers, if Marvin Harrison gets his rightful place in Canton.
Harrison, the Philadelphia native who became an All-America receiver and punt returner for Syracuse before going on to shatter records as Peyton Manning’s favorite receiver for the prime years of his career, is among the finalists for the 2016 induction class. And at some point tonight between 6:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m. EST, Harrison will find out if he’s going to be the eighth Syracuse alum to be enshrined in the Hall.
Along with Harrison, the other finalists waiting to hear if they’ve been inducted into the most hallowed club in all of football include Morten Anderson, Steve Atwater, Don Coryell, Terrell Davis, Tony Dungy, Alan Faneca, Brett Favre, Kevin Greene, Joe Jacoby, Edgerrin James, John Lynch, Terrell Owens, Orlando Pace, and Kurt Warner.
There’s one name that stands above the others as a surefire inductee tonight, and that’s Favre. After that, things get a little murkier. If you’re going by numbers alone, Harrison would seem to be a virtual lock, though the old “wide receiver logjam” argument starts to get in the way – especially when Harrison is in the same group of finalists alongside Owens.
But Harrison’s numbers are staggering (so are TO’s, of course, and at the end of the day, both are absolutely Hall of Fame pass catchers, and should really both be in as soon as possible). Harrison still holds the NFL single season record with 143 catches, and is the only player in pro football history to record eight straight seasons of at least 1,000 yards and 10 touchdowns. He’s got a Super Bowl ring, and ranks third in NFL history in career receptions (1,102), fifth in receiving touchdowns (128), and seventh in receiving yards (14,580).
How good was Marvin Harrison? Well, surefire Hall of Fame cornerback Charles Woodson had this to say about the former Syracuse and Indianapolis great:
“Marvin Harrison was the best receiver I played against, especially being a young player and just learning the game at this level. He was already at a high level, and the job was made even more difficult because it seemed like every time we played the Colts it was in Indianapolis, where they played on turf — that old AstroTurf. I hated playing on that. The Colts were fast on it, and Marvin had everything: He was bigger than you would think from watching him on film, and he was fast and quick and ran great routes. They were going to line him on the defense’s left side every time, but he was tough to deal with even when you knew where he was going to be. I never was one of those guys who was going to lose sleep thinking about a matchup, but I did understand that it was going to be one of those days when I was playing him. Really, he was the only guy that I thought of like that.”
By any measure, Harrison should be in the Hall of Fame, and it’s really just a matter of when, not if, he gets the call. And once again, if he does get the call tonight, he’ll become the eighth Syracuse alum to be enshrined in Canton.
Right now, Syracuse is tied with Alabama for the fifth most inductees, with seven. Jim Brown, Larry Csonka, Art Monk, Floyd Little, Jim Ringo, and John Mackey are the players to have been inducted, along with Syracuse alum and late Raiders owner Al Davis. In the coming years, that group will likely not only be joined by Harrison, but more than likely Dwight Freeney, and quite possibly Donovan McNabb, as well. McNabb’s considered to be on the borderline these days, though his numbers and ability to carry his Philadelphia Eagles teams tends to be forgotten or at least glossed over these days.
Only two schools have at reached double digits in terms of inductees, but Syracuse has a very realistic chance at joining them over the next six or seven years with the trio of Harrison, Freeney, and McNabb looming. Gary Anderson, ranked second all-time in total points in NFL history, should have a shot – especially if Morten Anderson is inducted this year – but keep in mind, right now only three kickers have been enshrined. Tom Coughlin, who shared a backfield with Csonka and Little at Syracuse, will more than likely be inducted for his coaching tenure with the New York Giants.
Harrison is the greatest receiver in Syracuse history by any measurement, and ranks as one of the greatest receivers in NFL history. Hopefully tonight, he’ll have that greatness rewarded with induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.