I was nine years old when Peyton Manning was drafted by the Indianapolis Colts. Having been born to a family of Colts fans, it was easy for Manning to become my childhood hero. When I met him during his rookie year I remember, thinking this is the tallest person I have ever seen.
The Colts and Peyton Manning helped to transform Indianapolis into the city it is today. Without Manning who knows if the Colts would have won over the public and gotten the support needed to get a stadium like Lucas Oil. This was Reggie Miller’s town and that wasn’t up for debate.
The Colts started winning consistently towards the end of Reggie Miller’s career and the start of a regrettable era of Pacers basketball. If the Pacers weren’t fighting fans, they were getting in fights at strip clubs. Their demise, coupled with the Colts’ newfound success, converted Indianapolis into a football town.
In the military everyone talks about their hometown and their hometown teams. It’s nice to be able to say you’re a fan of a team without feeling embarrassed. I can’t imagine what it’s like to tell someone you’re a Browns or Cubs fan. That must be frustrating. Luckily, Manning protected our city from that kind of mediocrity for 14 years.
I watched Super Bowl XLI with my friends and family spread across three rooms of my parent’s house. We all yelled when Devin Hester ran back the opening kickoff for a touchdown, but we yelled a lot louder when the final whistle blew and Indianapolis became a championship team.
As soon as the game was over we piled into a friend’s car and drove downtown to celebrate. We ended up in a crowd on Monument Circle. Everyone was cheering and celebrating. There was actually a guy in the crowd wearing a Bears jersey. When the crowd spotted him, they began chanting a profane chant about the Bears. The police quickly dispersed the crowd after that.
During the 2009 season, I was in Afghanistan with the Indiana Army National Guard. I had a Colts flag that I kept around my pack when we traveled. I had it around my rucksack when we were flying through Baltimore and coincidentally our unit Guidon was missing when we got our bags.
When Manning was released, I was really disappointed. I was actually angry at Luck to some extent, because if not for him, the Colts probably would have kept Manning.
My quarterback was leaving and who really knew what Luck would become? When Manning signed with the Broncos I was hopeful he’d get a Super Bowl so long as it wasn’t at the expense of the Colts.
My connection as a fan to Manning has diminished significantly since he became a Bronco. It happened slowly, but he wasn’t my quarterback anymore. I still wanted him to win, to cement his legacy as better than Brady—yes he is better than Brady--but the personal feeling of it all had cooled.
Peyton Manning retires as the greatest QB of all time after helping gain respect for my city from across the country. We were lucky to watch such high level play and to benefit so much from it.