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Peyton Manning reflects on legacy of former Colts Tony Dungy, Marvin Harrison

NFL: Peyton Manning-Press Conference Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

Former Colts quarterback Peyton Manning appeared on ESPN’s Mike and Mike in the Morning this morning with Ryen Russillo and Mike Golic, and he shared his thoughts on Marvin Harrison and Tony Dungy, both of whom are going into the Pro Football Hall of Fame this weekend.

Manning played for Dungy for seven seasons (2002-2008), and it’s clear what a significant impact it had not only on the quarterback but on so many other players as well. When asked what comes to mind when he thinks of Tony Dungy’s legacy, Manning answered:

“Calm. Collected. Cool. All those words. I always said Tony Dungy was as calm and cool in the fourth quarter of an AFC Championship game or a Super Bowl as he was in the first quarter of a preseason game. He just always had that calm, collected look on the sidelines because he was. It was real, and boy that just sent a message to the rest of his players, that, ‘hey, my head coach is calm and cool and not worried about anything, maybe I should be the same way.’ And it just spread out over the rest of the team.

“And he treated you, Mike [Golic], like such a professional. He was great about knowing when to put the pads on [and] when to take them off, when to take care of your legs. He treated you like such a grown individual, that boy, come Sundays, you just didn’t want to let him down. You wanted to make that great throw for him or make that diving catch or that big sack for him, because you didn’t want to disappoint him. So I’m sure you’ve had different types of coaches and leaders: some that have used scare tactics – ‘hey, [if] you don’t do this you’re going to get cut’ or whatnot – and they’re all very effective ways and different ways of leading, but his was not that way. Never raised his voice, never used any kind of language, but because you loved him so much you played hard for him. And so it was a very effective way of leading, and he got a lot of guys to follow, and I was just really honored and lucky to have a chance to play for him.”

Manning also talked about the legacy of Marvin Harrison, with whom he shares the all-time records for most receptions, yards, and touchdowns between a quarterback and wide receiver. What was so special about playing with Harrison?

“Well it means everything when you have that trust. When you know where a guy’s going to go without him having to tell you beforehand or without having had to talk about it in the huddle. A slight adjustment, he’s going to go to the post instead of to the corner. It was kind of that sixth sense, maybe if you will, that Marvin and I just seemed to have early and we really worked hard. We really put a lot of time in in the offseason, we used to go out there and throw before the games, spent a lot of time after practice. And you know, my very first preseason game, on the third play of the game I threw my very first pass and I threw a little six yard slant route to Marvin Harrison and he ran 48 yards for a touchdown. I remember thinking, ‘this NFL’s not so hard, all you do is throw it to Marvin Harrison and you’ll throw a touchdown.’ And for the most part, that was pretty true throughout my career. We threw a bunch of them.

“But I leaned on Marvin early. He was a third year player and I was a rookie, and you kind of look for a veteran to lean on, so I leaned on guys like Marshall Faulk and Marvin Harrison, and he was always there for me. And the greatest thing about Marvin Harrison wasn’t what he did on Sundays, [it] was just the joy of watching him practice. Ryan and Mike, it was pretty special. You hear about Jerry Rice’s work ethic and it’s been well-documented, but I’m telling you: Marvin Harrison in practice was unbelievable. He went full-speed, all the time, every catch he had in a simple drill he’d turn it up and go 40 yards like he’s scoring for a touchdown. He could run all day, which was unbelievable because he ate pure junk food. He ate Philadelphia tastycakes all the time; his body fat was like that of a cadaver, zero percent body fat, but he could run all day, he could run as fast as you want. And I realized early on that was not normal.

“That was not normal that guy could run this fast [and] could run all day. Mike [Golic], you know the famous taps the top of your helmet tap out signal, I never saw him do that. He never came out, he never came out in a practice [and] never came out in a game. Reggie Wayne comes there, who’s a great player, and had a great work ethic but understands just how Marvin does it, and that sets the tone. So I’m playing with two guys that I practice with everyday and I played with all the time because they never get hurt and they never come out. It’s easy to understand why you get good timing with these guys because they’re always in there. So that started with Marvin, and you combine that with great talent and there’s no question, it’s a no-brainer that he’s in the Hall of Fame this weekend. And to be going in with Tony at the same time is pretty special. We’ve got a bunch of old Colts coming to Canton on Saturday, it’s going to be really special.”

Of course, in five years it will be Manning joining his top receiver and former head coach in the Hall of Fame, and there will once again be another celebration at that time. But Manning is enjoying it now as well as he reflects on the careers of two men who were among the best at what they did, and it’s always cool to hear Manning’s thoughts on the subject. For instance, it’s cool hearing his take on Dungy and how you just didn’t want to disapoint him, so players played hard. Or with Harrison, how he ate junk food and was still among the best receivers in NFL history. It’s a reflection from a guy who got a behind the scenes look at both Marvin Harrison and Tony Dungy, which is worth reading as we approach Hall of Fame weekend.