Ashley Fox: Harrison remains an enigma

Posted: May 04, 2008

One day after practice during the 2006 season, Tony Dungy was telling me how little he knew about Marvin Harrison, a man he had coached in Indianapolis since 2002. It wasn't a negative, and it wasn't for lack of trying on Dungy's part. Harrison simply is relentlessly private, a man few know or understand outside of his family and close circle of friends.

"I think I know his mother better than I know him," Dungy said at the time, "and I've talked to his mom probably four times. . . . I respect his privacy because that's the way he wants it."

Then Dungy spoke as if reciting something Harrison had told him: "I'm going to give you everything I've got all the time. I'm going to know what to do. I'm not going to make mistakes. I'm going to be dependable. You can count on me to do my job, but as soon as my job is over, whether it's right after the game or right after practice, I'm going to be the first one dressed, the first one gone. I'm not going to be in any trouble. I'm never going to be anybody you have to worry about being a distraction, but you just won't know where I am."

Now, that is the big question. Where was Harrison last week, and was he involved in a shooting in North Philadelphia near where Harrison owns a couple of businesses? Was he using his gun that, according to the Daily News, produced five shell casings found at the shooting scene, or was someone else?

If Harrison, who has not been charged with any wrongdoing, did shoot someone, why would he risk everything he has? Freedom, money, family, reputation, career - it could all be in jeopardy.

Or not.

The thing is, with professional athletes, rarely do we know much about them. Harrison might guard his personal life closer than most, but even outgoing and verbose athletes can have secret sides.

Harrison is an enigma, always has been. Rarely does he let someone into his confidence. He doesn't talk much to teammates, doesn't do many interviews.

During the season, Harrison lives in an apartment by himself near the Indianapolis airport. He is all business at the Colts' training facility. He typically eats lunch in a media relations office. When Dungy ends practice, Harrison is the first one out the door.

Same after games. He showers. He leaves. He picks up takeout for dinner and doesn't socialize in Indianapolis.

A lot of the time after home games, Harrison will take a late flight to Philadelphia. He is here a lot, here to see his son and his friends. He spends much of the off-season here and has tried to revitalize his old neighborhood.

Dungy said that when Harrison has introduced him to someone he calls a friend, it's almost always someone from high school or middle school, or the neighborhood.

"It doesn't seem like he has a lot of friends that he just met," Dungy said, "and I think that's just Marvin."

Just before Harrison topped the 1,000-catch mark in 2006, I sat down with him in Indianapolis. He provided only glimpses into his personal life. The edges were rounded by his mother, Linda, and his uncle, Dr. Vincent Cowell.

While Harrison deflected most questions - even innocuous ones such as which Anita Baker song was his favorite - as too personal, he did talk about the burdens wealth can bring to someone who grew up without it.

"If I told you everything I know about money, you couldn't imagine," Harrison said. "Is it hard having money? No. I mean, yes and no. It's just a matter of how you handle yourself personally with it."

He bought his mother a house in Montgomery County, but he found that that purchase wasn't the end of his responsibility.

"It's not a one-shot deal, as I found out," Harrison said. "It's always got to be something where you've got to keep continuing to make people happy and try to continue to help them as they go. That's where it started. Hopefully, it'll work out in the end."

It's impossible to speculate about what might or might not have happened in North Philadelphia last week. According to media reports, the shooting for which Harrison has been questioned occurred about 5 p.m. Tuesday down the block from a garage and detail shop Harrison owns at 25th and Thompson. Harrison lived at 24th and Thompson until he was about 12 years old.

Harrison's gun reportedly was involved, but was Harrison himself?

"I've spoken with Marvin, and I've spoken with his attorney, and they say the reports are erroneous," Harrison's agent, Tom Condon, told ESPN. "Marvin was not involved in any shooting, and he is not the subject of this investigation."

Police reportedly haven't done anything more with Harrison than question him. That fact has brought more attention than he could have possibly wanted.

"Everyone has their opinions already," Harrison said in 2006. "There's nothing I would volunteer about me. People who really know me know who I am. If they don't know me, they just assume whatever they want."


Ashley Fox:

Inside

The Eagles' three corners split playing time. Westbrook: "It was awkward for me to watch that." E3.
Contact staff writer Ashley Fox

at 215-854-5064 or afox@phillynews.com.

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