Jim Irsay’s success is profoundly based on the heritage left by his parents, Robert and Harriet Irsay. As significant characters in the early days of the Indianapolis Colts, Robert and Harriet helped shape the franchise’s identity. Following the deaths of his parents, Jim Irsay inherited sole control of the Colts. As Chairman and CEO, his leadership has not only maintained but further increased the team’s reputation, gaining him international acclaim.

Jim Irsay, born in Lincolnwood, Illinois, grew up Catholic. He didn’t learn about his father’s Jewish origin until he was fourteen years old. He attended Loyola Academy in Wilmette, Illinois, before moving on to Mercersburg Academy ’78 in Mercersburg, Pennsylvania. Jim attended Southern Methodist University after high school, where he earned a degree in broadcast journalism in 1982. While at SMU, he demonstrated his athletic abilities by joining the SMU Mustangs football team as a walk-on linebacker. Unfortunately, an ankle injury ended his playing career.

Robert Irsay: NFL Legacy and Entrepreneurial Vision

Robert Irsay, a renowned American professional football team owner, had an everlasting influence on the National Football League (NFL) as the owner of the Indianapolis Colts club from 1972 until he died in 1997. Robert was born in Chicago on March 5, 1923, as the son of Jewish immigrants from Hungary, Charles Irsay and Elaine Nyitrai.

Jim Irsay

Robert Irsay joined the United States Marine Corps in 1942, during the height of World War II. Following his military duty, he became involved in the family business, joining his father’s heating and ventilation company. Robert Irsay Co. was formed in 1951 by Robert, who was inspired by his business zeal. His initiative was a huge success, culminating in the sale of the company to Zurn Industries approximately a year before his key purchase of the Colts in 1972.

Jim Irsay Parents: A Journey of Love and Loss

Robert Irsay married Harriet Pogorzelski, a daughter of Polish Catholic immigrants, in 1946. The Irsays were devout Catholics who reared three children: Thomas, Roberta, and Jim. Unfortunately, tragedy struck in 1971 when Roberta was killed in an automobile accident on Interstate 294 outside Chicago. Thomas, who suffered from serious mental disabilities, lived in a Florida institution until he died in 1999 at the age of 45.

Jim, the surviving son, has subsequently taken over as CEO and major owner of the Colts. After more than four decades of marriage, Robert Irsay and Harriet divorced, and Robert married Nancy Clifford on June 17, 1989, at Indianapolis’ Second Presbyterian Church. Their marriage lasted six years until November 1995, when Robert Irsay had a stroke. He spent many months in critical care at St. Vincent’s Indianapolis Hospital.

Following his discharge, difficulties occurred, including pneumonia, and heart and renal issues, prompting his admission to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. The football mogul died in Indianapolis on January 14, 1997. Nancy Irsay, Robert’s second wife, too suffered the inevitable cycle of life and died on November 7, 2015.

Jim Irsay
Jim Irsay Father Robert Irsay

Harriet Irsay: A Colts Icon’s Enduring Legacy

Harriet Irsay (Dorothy), Jim Irsay’s mother, was born in 1921 to Polish immigrants in Chicago’s bustling Bucktown neighborhood. Her scholastic trajectory took her to Wells High School, where she graduated in 1939. The early years of Harriet and Robert’s marriage were marked by hard effort. Harriet worked as a secretary irregularly until 1950, when Robert decided to start his own sheet metal and air-conditioning firm.

The family’s finances, along with Robert Irsay’s enthusiasm for sports, resulted in a huge acquisition: the Los Angeles Rams, who were acquired for $19 million. Later, in a strategic move, he arranged a franchise trade that brought the Baltimore Colts into the fold. Harriet Irsay’s passion for the Indianapolis Colts was fuelled by a great love for the team. Despite her divorce from Robert Irsay in 1988, she remained actively involved in the company. Harriet Irsay’s last chapter ended in 2008, leaving a legacy of loyalty to the Indianapolis Colts that still resonates more than a decade later.