Next up on the Fizz’s Top 100 list is a prolific pass-catcher from Philadelphia who went on to set Syracuse’s single-season receiving record, and win a Super Bowl with the Indianapolis Colts. Marvin Harrison comes in at number 18.
Harrison grew up in the Center City area of Philly and attended Roman Catholic High School, a private school mostly known for its excellent basketball squad. The 6-foot-1 Harrison starred on the hardwood, making a game-winning shot to win the Catholic League title his junior year and garnering interest from Duke and Pitt. But he knew his future was on the gridiron, where he played running back, receiver, safety, and returned kicks and punts. In three years of varsity football, Harrison amassed 1,812 yards rushing, 1,454 yards receiving and found the end zone 36 times.
Harrison chose SU over Notre Dame, Penn State, and Miami, thanks to a little pressure from his mom, and the assurance from SU assistant Bob Casullo that the shy high schooler’s choice would not be made public until he was ready. Arriving in Central New York at a slim 175 pounds, Harrison redshirted his freshman year and found spot duty, making only two catches and returning one punt.
After Qadry Ismail left for the NFL, Harrison stepped up to take the starting spot. He burst onto the scene in 1993, catching 41 passes for 813 yards (third-best in the BIG EAST) and 7 touchdowns (second-best). He also had a 180-yard game in a win over East Carolina. The combination of Harrison and Shelby Hill on the outside along with signal-caller Marvin Graves led a Syracuse offense that averaged 240 yards per game through the air. However, four losses in BIG EAST play along with a tie in Texas kept the Orange out of a bowl.
In 1994, Harrison retained his receiving skills while adding returning to his resume. He led the BIG EAST in receiving yards per game (76.1) and yards per punt return (9.2). He had four games of over 100 receiving yards, and averaged a ridiculous 21 yards per catch. The Orange started the season 6-1, including a 49-42 win over Temple in Harrison’s hometown of Philadelphia, but dropped three out of their last four and missed a bowl.
Harrison was already one of the best receivers in the country going into his senior season, and was considered a potential first-round pick. And his last year in the Dome only helped to elevate his status. Thanks to an amazing connection with redshirt freshman QB Donovan McNabb, Harrison set the SU single-season receiving record with 1,131 yards. He had six games of over 100 yards receiving and caught eight TDs. He excelled in the return game as well, averaging 16.8 yards per punt return and taking two to the house. Syracuse finally made it to a bowl in 1995, thrashing Clemson (wait, Clemson?) 41-0, with Harrison setting SU bowl records for both catches (7) and receiving yards (173). He finished his SU career with 2,728 yards (a record for 20-plus years) and 20 touchdowns.
The Indianapolis Colts selected Harrison with the 19th pick in the 1996 NFL Draft. He caught over 60 passes in his first two seasons, and when Peyton Manning took over the starting QB role in 1998, the two immediately established a connection. Harrison had seven straight 1,000 yard seasons from 1999 to 2006, when the Colts beat the Bears in Super Bowl XLI. He made the Pro Bowl eight times before his retirement in 2008, and ranked second in NFL history with 1,102 career receptions. Harrison was inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame in 2016, and is on the 2021 ballot along with fellow SU alum Dwight Freeny for the College Football Hall of Fame.