This past weekend, the Colts, or rather former Colts, completed what Marvin Harrison called "the trifecta."
Harrison and Tony Dungy were both inducted into the Hall of Fame, while Peyton Manning won his second Super Bowl. This week's Throwback Thursday will look at the respective career of Harrison, Dungy, and Manning prior to joining the Indianapolis Colts.
Let's start with the first of the three to join the Colts: Marvin Harrison.
Harrison attended Syracuse University, where he started for three years for the Orange. In his freshman season, Harrison did play, but not much. The receiver compiled two catches for 13 yards. That's it.
In his sophomore year, Harrison started nine of the Orange's 11 games. Harrison caught 41 balls for 813 yards and six touchdowns, a stark improvement from his freshman year.
During his junior year, though, Harrison's numbers dipped. While playing in more games (he started in all 10 games), he only caught 36 passes for 761 yards and five touchdowns.
It all changed for Harrison, though, in his senior year. During Harrison's senior season at Syracuse, he had a quarterback you may have heard of: Donovan McNabb. The receiver tallied 56 catches for 1,131 (a 20.1 average per catch!) yards and 8 touchdowns.
Harrison concluded his senior season as the all-time leader in yards, and second in touchdown, at Syracuse.
In the draft, Harrison would be the fourth wide receiver drafted behind Keyshawn Johnson, Terry Glenn, and Eddie Kennison. He was taken by the Colts with the 19th pick, a pick the Colts acquired as a part of their trade that sent Jeff George to Atlanta.
Obviously, the Colts made the correct choice in picking up Harrison in the draft.
The year 1996 was also important to Dungy. In January on 96, Dungy was hired as the head coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. At the time, the Bucs were the NFL's worst franchise (in terms of all time win-loss percentage). In fact, Tampa Bay still is in the cellar, having won only 38.5% of their games all time.
In case you were wondering, the Bears have the best all-time win percentage. The Colts are 11th.
Anyway, Dungy proceeded to transform the Bucs into one of the NFL's best teams by way of constructing an elite defense. In his time in Tampa, Dungy compiled a 54-42 (55.6%) record and led the Bucs to the playoffs in four of his six years, and reached the NFC Title Game once.
If you take Dungy's record out of Tampa Bay's all-time numbers, the franchise is only 187-344 all-time.
In his second season in Tampa Bay, Dungy led the Bucs to the Divisional Round, losing to the eventual NFC Champion Packers. Two years later, the Bucs returned to the playoffs as the second seed in the NFC. Tampa reached the NFC Championship game, only to lose a low scoring contest against the eventual Champion Rams.
The next two years, the Bucs qualified as a Wild Card team, and were knocked out by the Eagles both years. After a 31-9 thumping the second time, Dungy was fired after the season.
Promptly, he was hired by the Colts, who had just fired Jim Mora. Dungy would coach the Colts for seven seasons, with his worst being a 10-6 campaign in his first year. The Colts reached the playoffs every year under Dungy and won a Super Bowl.
Dungy may never have had that success with the Colts, though, without a future Hall of Fame QB.
Unlike both Harrison and Dungy, Manning was not in the NFL in 1996.
Manning began his playing career at the University of Tennessee in 1995, where he became the start mid-season after injuries to the top two QBs. Manning proceeded to lead the Vols to an 8-4 record and a Gator Bowl victory.
In 1996, Manning led the Vols to a one loss season (the one loss coming in Florida to the Gators) and finished the season as the third ranked team in the nation. The Vols beat Ohio State in the Citrus Bowl.
To begin Manning's junior year, Tennessee was ranked second in the country. However, another loss to Florida, coupled with a loss to Memphis, sent the Vols to the Citrus Bowl again, where they defeated Northwestern.
Manning finished his bachelor's degree after his junior year, and could have opted to go pro after his junior season where he likely would have been drafted first overall by the Rams. However, Manning returned to Tennessee to play his senior season.
In his senior season, Manning's Vols only lost one game (again to Florida) but reached the Orange Bowl where they would face the second ranked Nebraska Cornhuskers (Tennessee was ranked #3). If Manning could lead the Vols to a win, and Ryan Leaf could lead Washington State to a win over Michigan, then Tennessee would be the National Champions.
Unfortunately for Tennessee, Manning couldn't play defense as the Huskers compiled over 400 rushing yards in a 42-17 romp over Tennessee.
Manning would be drafted first overall by the Colts in the 1998 draft and would remain the quarterback for the next 13 years, leading the Colts to the playoffs in 10 of those seasons. Manning won 4 MVPs as a Colt, and won a Super Bowl. Then, after missing 2011 with a neck injury, Manning was released and signed by the Denver Broncos where he won another MVP and another Super Bowl.
But you all knew that.
With Manning likely to retire this off-season, he will be an easy choice as a first ballot Hall of Famer. Then he will join Harrison and Dungy (maybe Edgerrin James by that point) in the Hall of Fame.