Peyton Manning Reflects on Colts Glory Days

The QB, a future Hall of Famer, reminisces about his all-time favorite passing target as part of IM’s look back at three decades of NFL football in Indy.

For our “3o for 3o” feature, a nod to three decades of Indianapolis Colts football in the September issue, IM rounded up the 30 most memorable plays and players, moments and milestones, from the city’s run so far as an NFL town.
The dynamic duo of quarterback Peyton Manning and receiver Marvin Harrison was a no-brainer. The pair remains the most successful quarterback-to-receiver bromance in NFL history. In 2005, the combo surpassed Steve Young and Jerry Rice’s career touchdown mark, and the pair still holds records in career completions (953), TDs (112), and yards (12,756). Reggie Wayne, another favorite Manning target, had a front-row seat to the action and saw what made the icons click. “They understood each other,” Wayne says.
Manning has since moved on, of course, but he still has fond recollections of his old passing pal Harrison. Troy E. Renck, Broncos beat writer for the The Denver Post, caught up with Manning ahead of Sunday’s big matchup with the Colts.
Here’s what Manning had to say:
“I think both of us really like to work at our craft. Marvin had unbelievable ability, but he had an unbelievable work ethic, too. He took a lot of pride in his profession, in his route running, in his ability to catch the football, and he wanted to get better every day and every single season. I did as well. Having those common traits together sure made a difference.”
“Marvin was a third-year player when I got to Indianapolis. He was kind of the veteran receiver of the group. I just remember leaning on him as a rookie quarterback. The first pass I ever threw was in a preseason game—I threw a touchdown pass to Marvin Harrison, and I thought in my head, ‘I think we can throw the ball to Marvin Harrison. It’s a pretty good idea because good things can happen.’ That’s pretty much what happened every time I threw to him all for those years—good things.”
“He and I just had a good feel for one another. We saw things the same way. Marvin could visualize a defense when we were talking on the sideline. He could see it in his head the way I saw it. We didn’t have to write things on a board. That made a difference. Out there on the field, we had a head nod or a wink every now and then that was sort of a second language, an unspoken language, and we were able to be on the same page for a lot of completions and touchdowns during our time together.”
And where is that ball Manning threw Harrison to break the all-time touchdown record for a QB–receiver combo?
“I think our equipment manager John Scott probably still has it stored somewhere. I kind of wanted to give it to Marvin. Marvin said, ‘No, you take it.’ Then we decided we’d split it.”
“A lot of times, if you get a special ball, you get it painted up as a game ball. I think cutting a ball in half had never really been done necessarily before, so it never really got to that point. That was 2004, and the years passed. Marvin wasn’t saying anything. I never said anything. Then Marvin retired. I imagine it’s somewhere in the Indianapolis Colts’ building.
“I think a lot of records will get broken. Players are playing longer. The rules have changed somewhat. But that’s one I was proud of because of all the work Marvin and I put in together. All those touchdowns resulted in a lot of wins for our team, so I know I’m proud of that one. I’m proud to share it with Marvin Harrison.
Read the full list of most memorable Indy Colts moments here. 0914-30FOR30.PEYTONcover
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