MIAMI (AP) – Tick, tock, tick, tock.
For 3,600 seconds Tuesday, reclusive Colts receiver Marvin Harrison sat patiently and fielded questions he wouldn’t think of availing himself for on a normal day.
But this is the Super Bowl, and this was media day. And only under auspices as grand as these would one of the NFL’s best receivers consent to talk.
Actually, Harrison’s hour at Podium No. 6 inside Dolphin Stadium was fairly newsy.
It was an insightful, introspective look at one of the NFL’s most prolific and least understood receivers. And as surprising as it was to even see him there, so were his takes on the interview process itself.
“It’s fine,” he said. “I’m not itching to get up. It’s the Super Bowl, and where else would you rather be right now?”
While most of the pregame hype surrounds Indianapolis quarterback Peyton Manning’s long quest for a title, Harrison is in virtually the same boat. During 11 seasons, all with Indy, he has caught 1,022 passes for 13,697 yards and 122 touchdowns. He reached 1,000 catches more quickly than any receiver in history. He’s healthy and not considering retirement anytime soon. In other words, with good fortune and good health, he could surpass Jerry Rice as the Greatest Of All Time.
“That’s not important to me,” he insisted.
From Harrison, the statement seems genuine.
In an era of preening, end-zone-dancing, look-at-me receivers, Harrison is the anti-T.O. – a polite, businesslike athlete succeeding at a prima donna’s position.
He is not a media hound. Harrison sightings during open locker room periods for the regular Colts media are about as common as an Indy snowstorm in July.
But he apologizes to no one, even when faced with the reality that Pro Bowl trips and Hall of Fame legacies are often built in the court of public opinion as much as the stat sheet.
“Everyone has their style of play and their style of celebration,” he explained. “I don’t think it’s hurt me any. I’d definitely like to know, who’s won more games between me and the receivers who do the antics and tactics and things? I’d definitely like to know that. I know I have more catches than them.”
As far as boasts go, that’ll probably have to do for Harrison.
He just doesn’t say much, and certainly would never supply fodder for an opponent’s motivation.
Except, of course, the time earlier this season when he spiked the ball after a tiptoe touchdown catch against New England. Spiking it was a big enough deal for Harrison. The fact that he received a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty was even bigger news.
No big deal, Harrison insists.
“It wasn’t taunting,” he said, parsing the slight difference between that and unsportsmanlike conduct. “The ball hit one of their guys by accident. I’m not out there to embarrass anyone or harm anyone. My teammates love it. But I don’t have much of that left. Only on special occasions.”
This is, undoubtedly, a special occasion for the 34-year-old who grew up in Philadelphia, never a student of the game, and actually more a fan of basketball and the 76ers. Despite that, he knew when he reached high school that his future would be in catching passes, not shooting hoops.
He describes his as an unspectacular life – “I hang out, go to dinner, do things normal people do” – and his quest for the Super Bowl not as the Herculean conquest that many have made it out to be.
“I always saw the light at the end of the tunnel,” Harrison said. “I work hard. I didn’t want to settle for being anything less than great. Now, I get to play in the Super Bowl. It would’ve been great whether it was at the beginning of my career or the end.”
He knows that winning Sunday will put a certain sheen on his resume that would otherwise be missing. But it won’t change the mission.
His work ethic is Manningesque, and in fact, the two have honed that ethic together – running routes, playing pass-and-catch, trying to make it perfect in May and June and July so they’d see the dividends come January and February.
Finally, they arrived – the superstar quarterback and his reclusive receiver.
“This is not Marvin’s favorite part of the week, but like me, this is the first time he’s in this game, and he has to try to enjoy the moment,” Manning said, as he glanced a few yards to his left to see Harrison holding court. “It looks to me like he’s doing that.”
He said his reluctance to talk to reporters under normal circumstances comes mainly because “I don’t have a lot to talk about.”
But on media day, the hour seemed to fly by.
It was one of those rare cases in this overhyped, over-attended setting in which the questions and answers seemed genuine, not the fabricated baloney that has turned this into an Event more suited for Jerry Springer than Bob Costas.
“That it? That it?” Harrison said, as the final seconds ticked off. “Everything was pretty cool today.”
“So, we’ll talk to you again tomorrow?” someone asked as the receiver was turning away, referring to Wednesday’s less-spectacular interviews at the team hotels.
“Well, yeah,” Harrison said, “maybe for about five minutes.”
MIAMI (AP) – Tick, tock, tick, tock.