Rob Kelley and Ryan Kerrigan reflected on head coach Tony Dungy and wide receiver Marvin Harrison, two of their biggest football influences, being inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio, on Saturday.
Garçon was drafted by Indianapolis in 2008, the final season of both Dungy's and Harrison's careers. When you factor in that he was also catching passes from Peyton Manning, Garcon was surrounded by an all-time great at head coach, quarterback and wide receiver in his rookie year.
"It was a learning experience, definitely," Garcon said. "I enjoyed playing with those guys because you could see the work they put in on the practice field and in the games, and to see it all over a long period of time it was pretty amazing. It made it easier for me to get better, to become a better player because you want to hold up the reputation of the team. So it was definitely a good thing to be around, it was an honor."
Dungy was an NFL coach for 13 seasons with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Indianapolis Colts. In that span, he accrued 148 wins and led the Colts to victory in Super Bowl XLI, becoming the first African-American coach to win a Super Bowl. Dungy also developed an impeccable reputation around the league as a man of character and integrity who frequently mentored players in dire straits.
"I learned how to be a great person," Garçon said of his time with Dungy. "I learned how to do your job you're responsible for yourself, and all the pieces will come together if you do your job. You're responsible on and off the field for it for the team. That's one of those things that will definitely get you through life. When you be where you're supposed to be at, do what you're supposed to do, then everything else moves into the right place."
Redskins linebacker Ryan Kerrigan grew up a Colts fan in Muncie, In., just over an hour from the RCA Dome that the Colts once called home. He has read all of Dungy's books and considers the former coach an inspiration.
"Not only just as a coach, just more so as a person because there's a lot of ways to go wrong in this world and he finds a lot of ways to do right," Kerrigan said. "So he's definitely someone a lot of people can look up to, and it's awesome to see him immortalized in Canton."
Also enshrined on Saturday was longtime Colts wide receiver Marvin Harrison, whose legendary career was winding down as Garçon arrived in Indianapolis and Kerrigan headed to college. Harrison's 1,102 career receptions are the second best of all time. In 2002, Harrison logged one of the best NFL seasons ever with 1,722 receiving yards on an NFL single-season record 143 receptions, a whopping 31 receptions ahead of second place.
"Seeing Marvin Harrison, a guy that I grew up watching as much as I did, getting into the Hall of Fame was pretty awesome," Kerrigan said. "It brought back a lot of good memories watching his little highlight reel and made you appreciate how good he was. I think for a lot of his playing career he got lost in shuffle a little bit because he wasn't loud or braggadocious or anything but to see his production and performance recognized was pretty cool."
Garçon shared similar sentiments as Kerrigan, but from the perspective of a teammate rather than a fan.
"Just watching everything he did, from running routes, catching balls, how fast he was," Garçon said. "The reason I called him the GOAT is because he led the league in catches, he's got the record with like 143, he's very fast, he's consistent. He can do a lot of things other guys can't do. Great hands. Great routes. He did it all. That's why I call him the greatest of all time. Not too many receivers can do what he did."
Garçon knows how fortunate he was to be surrounded by a legendary collection of talent and wisdom so early in his career. He makes it a priority to bring the lessons he learned under Dungy's and Harrison's guidance onto the field with him everyday and be a role model for younger players by paying attention to the details.
"Being on top of your job, knowing what to do, knowing the situations, being prepared for anything and everything because when we were in Indy, we ran that offense where we called the plays at the line of scrimmage and if we saw something we had to be on our job," Garçon said. "We didn't have time to think about it, you just had to know what was gonna happen. Definitely taught us about details, being accountable, knowing your plays, everything being in tune, pre-snap reads, there were a lot of things I learned from being out there and that's why I am where I am now because of that route that I took."