The NFL’s recent announcement that the Indianapolis Colts will play the Green Bay Packers in the preseason Hall of Fame Game on Aug. 7 in Canton, Ohio, shouldn’t have come as much of a surprise.
At least a couple of questions come to mind.
First, will the reclusive Harrison have one of the Hall of Fame’s most abbreviated acceptance speeches? He didn’t grant many interviews in the final years of his career and despite recent comments that he doesn’t care about Terrell Owens not getting in on a first ballot, Harrison typically avoids the public spotlight.
Second, just how many former Colts will make the five-hour trip to celebrate the inductions of Dungy and Harrison?
When longtime president/vice chairman Bill Polian was inducted last year, he took a picture with former Colts colleagues Dungy, quarterback Peyton Manning, center Jeff Saturday, tight end Dallas Clark, offensive tackle Tarik Glenn, wide receiver Brandon Stokley, offensive guard Adam Meadows, linebacker Rob Morris, coach Caldwell Jim, linebacker Tyjuan Hagler and tight end Ben Hartsock.
Colts owner Jim Irsay also made the trip with other team personnel. Dungy’s popularity and Harrison’s prolific career as one of the NFL’s greatest receivers suggests the weekend will be an even larger Colts reunion.
Running back Edgerrin James, who with Harrison and Manning formed the famed “Triplets,” is sure to attend, as is Manning, Saturday, Glenn and other players from the Colts’ glory years. James, the Colts' all-time leading rusher, was among 15 finalists this year.
Expect a lot of “Cheeseheads,” too, with Green Bay Packers quarterback Brett Favre joining Dungy and Harrison for enshrinement. The rest of the 2016 class is owner Edward DeBartolo, Jr., linebacker Kevin Greene, tackle Orlando Pace, quarterback Ken Stabler and guard Dick Stanfel.
The induction ceremony is Aug. 6 with the game the next day at 8 p.m. at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium.
Dungy is the 23rd coach to be inducted and the third former Colts head coach after Weeb Embank (1978) and Don Shula (1997). He compiled a .668 regular-season winning percentage (139-69) and .652 winning percentage overall (148-79) while with the Colts (2002-08) and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1996-2001). Dungy is the winningest coach in Colts history at 85-27 (.759), the first to beat all 32 teams and one of three men to win a Super Bowl as a player (Pittsburgh Steelers, Super Bowl XIII) and a coach (Colts, Super Bowl XLI). He’s also the first black head coach to win a Super Bowl.
Harrison is just the second Colts wide receiver to be inducted, joining Raymond Berry (1973). A first-round pick with the 19th overall selection in 1996, Harrison played all 13 of his seasons through 2008 with the Colts and set 28 franchise records. He finished with 1,102 receptions for 14,580 yards and 128 touchdowns. In NFL history, he ranks third in receptions, fifth in receiving touchdowns and seventh in receiving yards.
Harrison and Manning are the NFL’s all-time leading combo with 112 touchdowns.
The Colts are 2-2 in Hall of Fame games. They lost to Washington 30-16 in 2008, defeated New Orleans 10-3 in 1996, lost 30-14 to Minnesota in 1982 and defeated the Steelers 48-17 in 1964. The Packers are 1-2-1 in the exhibition game, the lone win 38-24 over Atlanta in 1969. The Packers’ most recent appearance was a 9-0 loss to Kansas City in 2003 in a game that ended early due to lightning and heavy rain.
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