Four years ago on March 7, 2012 I was in my family’s Kansas home retreating to my room in tears with the realization that Peyton Manning was no longer apart of the Indianapolis Colts. The Colts, who were one of the few things that I could identify with and had remained consistent in my life, had let go of my childhood hero.
Thankfully, that wasn’t the end for him as he played four more years in the NFL with the Denver Broncos, won Super Bowl 50, and broke more records. Today, March 7, 2016, was the day Manning officially said it is the end for him. He is retiring.
Similarly to that press conference four years ago, I found myself in my college apartment, in front of my TV, wearing my Peyton Manning Broncos jersey, in tears again as I watched the press conference announcing Super Bowl 50 was his last game. I won’t ever see my number 18 play again.
To my generation Manning was Joe Namath or Dan Marino. He was the invincible genius that lead teams time and time again to victory. He was the perfect example of how hard work and dedication made greatness. After every set of downs we saw him on the bench studying regardless of whether a drive ended in an interception or a touchdown. He wouldn’t accept anything less than the best from himself or anyone else.
It was his character in addition to his performance on the field that made me an ultimate fan. He was always polite, classy, and genuine. He went out of his way to do things for each community he lived in. He helped establish Peyton Manning’s Children’s Hospital at St. Vincent in Indianapolis, he donated to help the families affected by the Chattanooga, Tennessee shooting, and through his ‘Peyback’ foundation he touched even more lives. He also had a sarcastic and witty sense of humor that came out every so often during post-game press conferences and even more in his commercials.
One of my favorite memories was when I received my first Peyton Manning jersey from my Dad when he was deployed in Afghanistan. It was a blue youth large Reebok jersey that I opened on my tenth birthday before school. It was sent from my Dad. As I opened it I couldn’t believe it. Not much later, the house phone rang and it was my Dad. I couldn’t begin to express my excitement. I said ‘thank you’ I don’t know how many times. It was as if the more I said it the more it would feel like I was giving him a hug.
Since before I can remember, Peyton Manning has been my favorite athlete and it was from him and watching football with my Dad that my love for the game flourished. That love continued to grow with Super Bowl XLI, the five-hour trip I took with my Dad to see Peyton play in St. Louis, and the enjoyment I had watching Peyton Manning play every Sunday after church. That love lead me to pursuing a career in sports journalism.
It was something that brought my family together no matter where we lived or how far apart we were. We could always talk about football and Peyton Manning. I want to tell Peyton Manning thank you. Thank you for being an incredible player and person. Thank you for being such an important part of my life and my family. Football will not be the same without you. I am honored to have grown up watching you play. Thank You.
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