It’s hard not to watch the scene at the Hall of Fame this weekend, with thousands of Packers fans swarming Canton, Ohio to celebrate the career of Brett Favre, and not think forward five years to the similar scene that will take place with Colts fans celebrating Peyton Manning.
In five years, Manning will be the headliner at the Hall of Fame induction, but tonight he was just one of the thousands in attendance, celebrating the careers of so many great figures in football history.
Make no mistake: Manning played a key role in the careers of both Marvin Harrison and Tony Dungy, who are being inducted tonight. But tonight, Manning is just like the rest of us: marveling at what a special receiver Harrison was, what a special coach Dungy was, and what a special team the Colts were.
“It’s really a great night in Colts history,” Manning told the Indianapolis Star’s Stephen Holder.
Though Manning played with Harrison for eleven seasons and rewrote the NFL record books with him for a quarterback/receiver duo, and though Manning played for Dungy for seven seasons and won 92 games (including a Super Bowl) with him, the quarterback is just now understanding how special that era was.
“It really is unbelievable,” Manning told Holder. “Last year, we had [Bill] Polian going in. It’s really not normal. I think I speak for most of the players that we realize now that it’s not normal. I think when you’re playing, you kind of [say], ‘Well, this is how it is.’ You have this great head coach and you have these great receivers and you have a great general manager. It becomes somewhat normal. But now you realize that wasn’t normal and how special Tony Dungy was as a coach and how special Marvin Harrison was.”
Manning has made the rounds this week to explain what made Harrison and Dungy so special, and he’s right that it is crazy to think about what an incredible era it was for the Colts. They had a Hall of Fame general manager in Bill Polian. They had a Hall of Fame head coach in Tony Dungy. They had a Hall of Fame wide receiver in Marvin Harrison. They had a (future) Hall of Fame quarterback in Peyton Manning. And they had several others - including Edgerrin James, Reggie Wayne, Jeff Saturday, Dwight Freeney, and Adam Vinatieri - who will garner consideration from the Hall of Fame selection committee. That’s an incredible accomplishment, and it’s something to be proud of as a Colts fan.
For tonight, Peyton Manning wasn’t the headliner. He instead sat in the stands with Edgerrin James and several other former Colts, reminiscing on old times. As the greatest Indianapolis Colt said, it’s a great night in Colts history.