INDIANAPOLIS – Fittingly, two of the most important pillars in the history of the Indianapolis Colts will be inducted into football lore on the same weekend.
One of the greatest eras in NFL history will be honored in Canton, Ohio this weekend with Edgerrin James and Peyton Manning receiving their gold jackets to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
As you’d expect, Jim Irsay has thought quite a bit about that era with Peyton and Edge in the backfield.
Irsay will actually present Edge into the Hall on Saturday (the Class of 2020 will go in that night), with Peyton to follow on Sunday (the Class of 2021 will go in on Sunday).
That 2000s era by the Colts was one of the greatest in NFL history, and Irsay has thought a whole lot about it recently.
“I tell the story, I specifically remember like it’s yesterday, I just crystalized it in my mind – Peyton (Manning), Marvin (Harrison) and Edgerrin (James) were all together at an away big national televised road game about to come out of the tunnel when it was just quiet right before you entered the field and you could just see 88, 32 and 18 and they were about to go out and we were introducing our offense and I just locked that picture in my mind because you probably won’t see it ever again,” Irsay says.
“You have a tremendous appreciation about how hard it is to win and win the way we won. I always talk about this as well, we were such a popular team. People loved the Colts and they loved the players and what they represented on and off the field. That’s really important to me too, the way they represented the Horseshoe the way they did.”
Edge’s induction was delayed a year due to COVID-19.
Just like Marvin Harrison a few years back, Edge wanted Irsay to be his presenter into Canton.
Back in the 1999 NFL Draft, the Colts made a bit of a surprise move in selecting Edge over Ricky Williams at No. 4 overall.
But it didn’t take Irsay long to realize the Colts had something special.
“The great thing is, particularly with No. 1 picks, we have this history of bringing them in, flying them in on my plane and getting with them and really spending some time with them initially and talking about their families and their lives and looking them in the eyes and talking about the dreams we have together going forward and that sort of thing,” Irsay recalls.
“It always stays imprinted on your mind and (James) was special from the beginning. I think we all know about our intuition with energy and when we meet people, we get a certain feeling about them. It’s not what they say or even how they say it or how they look or how they dress. It’s just that feeling you get when you’re in a room with someone like that, a special person who is going to do special things and you just say, ‘Wow, now I know we were right with that pick,’ and the rest is history. He’s such a special guy. I have to say that, I just want to read something that reminds me so much of Edgerrin, I sent it to him. It goes like this, ‘Life is so short. We spend so much time sweating the small stuff, worrying, complaining, gossiping, comparing, wishing, wanting and waiting for something bigger and better instead of focusing on all of the simple blessings that surround us every day. Life is so fragile and all it takes is a single moment to change everything you take for granted. Focus on what’s important and be grateful. You are blessed, believe it and live your life and leave regrets.’ That’s Edgerrin. It always has been. He’s had that thing where you don’t know where it comes from, and certainly his grandmother, the birth canal, just the nature of him and the type of person he is. He just exudes that sort of feeling. He’s always been Mr. Positive and no matter what situation him and I have faced together, including parting ways, he was never different. He was always Edgerrin.”
Peyton’s first-ballot induction will come on Sunday, with his father presenting him.
No matter where you look around today’s game, you will hear quarterbacks laud the role model Peyton has been for the most important position in sports.
“We all know it’s been mimicked before or joked about or broken down by serious people like John Madden and others – just to observe Peyton at the line of scrimmage and we all know the intensity of the student of the game that he is, the great player that he is,” Irsay says. ”Obviously, given great skills and that sort of thing, but the incredible aspect about the way he manages that line of scrimmage, the way he managed it is really second to none. If you’re in a thunderstorm and you’re on an airplane, you want a pilot like that. If you’re over fighting in war time or something, you want a leader like that. I mean this guy knew what he was doing. It showed and I think like Tiger Woods affected so many young golfers, he affected so many young quarterbacks. I mean they watched Peyton and they never had really seen anything quite like it. I mean there is no one that you could compare that to – what he did at the line of scrimmage and how noticeable it was. That’s why in 100 years there is only one Peyton Manning.”
It will be back-to-back nights of parties in Canton honoring two players that are massive reasons why the Colts are the Colts, and still in Indianapolis.
And these aren’t your average parties either.
“There’s never really any limitations I don’t think except how many people can physically fit inside the circus tent that the party is in and that sort of thing,” a smiling Irsay says. “Even those limitations seem to get lost at about midnight when a few drinks have flowed and security even gets a little more quieter and letting friends in. It’s just a great time and a great party. It’s just really special to see the family and extended family and friends of these people we all love as Colts fans. To see them all there and to see this magical night and to see their grandmother or to see their grandfather, their coach from grade school, to meet their best friend that has been there for them since first grade, it’s that type of setting. It’s really magical. In life you have those moments and those are the ones you wish that could go on forever. It’s like Bill Murray in ‘Groundhog Day’, he keeps waking up in that town hearing that music and he says ‘Why can’t I have that day when I was with that beautiful woman on the beach with a margarita in Tahiti. How come I can’t have that day over and over again?’ I think that’s the kind of way it is with these parties. You wish they could just go on forever. We all have images of what would heaven be like and it’s heavenly in there to see the interaction and the love and the connection and the magic because it all just centers in and concentrates into that moment. Once that party ends it becomes the past then and you’re a Hall of Fame alumni person. While that last party light is still on, the evening and the weekend is still alive so it’s a lot of magic in there. There is no limits, they ask me for this DJ or that DJ and I said fine. I just want to see everyone have a great time. I haven’t shut anything down yet. No one has asked me to have the Rolling Stones or U2 play at their party yet, but that could be a negotiation (laughing).”