As the kid from New Orleans makes his way to immortality in Canton, Ohio, I wonder if he will ever know the effect he had on a young boy and his Dad from Texas.
Certain athletes, for so many, embody a role in our lives that takes on so much more than a weekend television appointment to watch them play a sport. Athletes can represent hope, strength, endurance, and they can motivate us to work harder than we have before.
But for me, Peyton did so much more than that.
On the cusp of being 25 years old, I can look back and see how Peyton has made an impact on my life. Of course, he has given me all the great moments of being a fan, but it is really the sum of all of those moments that mean the most.
For as long as I can remember, Peyton Manning has been one of the biggest tools in creating one of my favorite and most important relationships I have in my life- the one I have with my Dad.
You see, me and my dad arent just Peyton Manning fans. We are Peyton Manning SUPERFANS. My Dad grew up a die-hard Vols fan in Tennessee but wasn’t looking to jump onto the Titans train when they rolled into town. So it wasn’t hard for him to do what so many Tennessee fans did after the 1997 season; dawn the royal blue of the Indianapolis Colts.
So when I arrived in the world in 1996, it did not take long at all for me to be dripping in orange and blue (respectively! Never together…) with either a No. 16 or No. 18 on the back.
It’s funny. For so much of my life, I never cared to watch sports on the TV. Not that I was against it, it just never really caught my attention that it did for others. I played sports my whole life, I loved playing backyard ball, and I attended my school’s sporting games.
Although the last one may have been more for the pretty girls than anything else.
Regardless, I was involved with sports, but I never went out of my way to ever learn anything about it or keep up with current events. Except for one player and one team. Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts.
In complete fairness, around the time of 2005 and 2006, I was going on double digits in terms of age. Most 10-year-olds are more concerned with Power Rangers and Legos, so even today, I still don’t feel too far out of place at the time.
But even at the young age of 10, not caring about sports in the absolute slightest, I knew this “Manning” fella on my blue jersey was pretty important. Because he was important to my Dad, many sons will take an interest in their father’s likings growing up because so many of us want to be just like our Dad. I imagine many daughters and Mothers feel this way, but I can’t speak for that. The very first time that I vividly remember liking something, simply because it’s what my Dad liked, was Peyton Manning.
In February of 2007, I remember my family heading over to a family friend’s house in Plano, Texas. I was the youngest of all the boys there, and many of them had such a genuine interest in the game. I, however, did not. I stayed upstairs for most of the game, playing Xbox with some other guys. But one thing was for sure- my Dad was wearing his Peyton jersey for the game, meaning I was too.
Over the next few years, I really hadn’t yet found my love for sports. It really wasn’t until halfway through high school that I became passionate about my own sports teams. But even through all this time, I always wanted to know as much as I could about Peyton Manning. Same ole’ story once again, I wanted to be just like my Dad. If he was wearing Peyton, then by God I was too!
Usually, the Colts were having a good season during my youth, which always made Colts games more fun to watch than Tennessee games, from my vivid memory. I would plop myself down on the couch, not really knowing or caring about what was going on.
But none of that mattered. All that mattered was that I was hanging out, eating some pizza, and watching the game with my Dad.
Eventually, I started to get caught up to speed on the game and the history of football, and the puzzle pieces started coming together instantly. For years and years, my Dad and I have shared seemingly millions of texts, thousands of phone calls, and… well, I don’t want to know how much time was spent in the youtube rabbit hole.
I don’t know how much my Dad knows those moments have meant to me in my life. I’d like to believe in full confidence they meant just as much to him, even when he knew I had no idea what was going on.
For a lot of us, we have those people in our lives that we would do anything to be more like. It could be a parent, a sibling, a grandparent, or a friend. For me though, it’s a relationship that I’ve seen the importance of more and more as I’ve grown older. I don’t take those moments for granted, and I remember all of them, even if I don’t remember the scores or the details.
My hope for anyone reading this is that you can recognize those things and those relationships that connect you and hold onto them.
But those moments would never have been possible without Peyton Manning.
He was a true professional on and off the field. From his fourth-quarter comebacks to his outrageously funny Saturday Night Live skits, Peyton always represented his absolute best. He is someone that so many can look up to- regardless of age or experience with the sport- for hope in the future.
Peyton Manning is the greatest NFL quarterback of all time. Even if Tom Brady wins in SB 55, it doesn’t matter. Brady is the greatest team sport athlete of all time. But there is no one more cerebral, more intelligent, and better than The Sheriff when it came to the quarterback position. I don’t know how often in today’s world a player enters the Hall of Fame and shoots up to the No. 1 spot, but in this case, Peyton has done it.
We all have that certain athlete that we hold on a sentimental level because of the weight they hold in our lives off the field. For mine, I am thankful.
I am thankful for the playing career of Peyton Manning. I am thankful for the countless bonding moments it gave between a father and son. I am thankful for all the memories that I have, in my Colts and Vols youth XS jerseys, sitting on the couch laughing and cheering with Dad.
So here’s to you, Dad. And here’s to you, Peyton.
You’re both Hall of Famers in my book.