Appreciating one’s greatness while it’s at the forefront is one of the toughest things to do in the realm of professional sports. In the era of social media and analytics, it's easy to over-analyze one’s ability or inability to perform at a high level.
As seen in football as well as other sports, the search of the “next” star has taken full steam. If we aren’t comparing the legacies of athletes or risking the rent on NFL betting lines, we become prisoners of the moment, failing to pay homage to those who have laid down the foundation as perennial athletes.
In football, we observe Odell Beckham Jr., Julio Jones and Antonio Brown make unbelievable plays each and every Sunday. While some plays are good enough to make one wonder how in the world they happened, it’s easy to forget about the stars preceding the ones from today. On occasion, fans need to be reminded of how great someone was, and in my case, I received the reminder on August 6, 2016.
Eight men were inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame after memorable careers. One of the eight guys who stood out from the prestigious group was the silent but inexorable Marvin Harrison.
Wait… Who? Marvin Harrison.
By Harrison being enshrined into the zenith of football hierarchy, it was also a reminder to those who may have failed to recall how great he once was. I’m speaking for myself, but I can assure you that I'm not alone in that feeling.
Due to his quiet demeanor and being the anti-diva to what we see now at his position, the memories of toe-tapping catches and his myriad of touchdowns are few and far between.
Was it the lack of the one signature game or moment? Or was it because Marvin was so good it became boring? We expected nothing less coming from him, and his greatness became a curse.
From 1996 to 2008, Marvin Harrison cemented himself as one of the greatest wide receivers to ever play the game of football. For 13 seasons, he prompted fear among the best defensive backs in the NFL. With the footwork and deftness of a ballerina, stopping Harrison was close to impossible.
For a person who was commonly silent, his game spoke with purpose. In his career, he hauled in 1,102 passes for 14,580 yards and 128 touchdowns. And he also had an impressive stretch with four straight seasons with over 100 receptions.
In addition to those numbers, here is a list of other notable accolades:
- eight-time Pro Bowler
- six-time All-Pro
- third all-time in receptions
- fifth all-time in receiving touchdowns
- 2000's All-Decade Team
- Most pass receptions in a single season (143)
For someone who does not exhibit one physical attribute of a dominant football player, those stats are pretty damn impressive. Hell, they're impressive for anyone. The newly inducted member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame was never the biggest, strongest or fastest, but few could outwork, outsmart or even cover him.
Like all good things, Harrison’s career came to an end, and just like that the memory of No. 88 became faint.
To no surprise, he left the game in a way that would be expected of him. There wasn’t a farewell tour nor a star-studded send-off — it was just Harrison running into the wind in the manner that he eluded defenses over his career.
He pranced away with his Colts jersey placed over his shoulder and his Jordan cleats in hand. As he left the game with his name was attached to many football records as well as a highlight reel echoing a live viewing of poetry in motion.
For Harrison, there is nothing else to say or to prove. His return to football this weekend wasn’t the same as the days where he mortified defenses; it was simply a reminder to those who forgot about the great 88.
I’m unhappy to say I was one of many in need of the refresher on his legacy. I’m thankful for the chance to relieve the moments created by Harrison. A YouTube search could have been the cure, but seeing him sport a gold jacket on football's biggest stage was a clear-cut reminder of how great Marvin Harrison truly was.