Peyton Manning’s football legacy

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Peyton Manning’s football legacy

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I don’t remember everything from my first Indianapolis Colts football game. I could feel the roar of the crowd vibrating through my sneakers and a sea of blue jerseys stretched throughout the stadium. I didn’t think the noise could get any louder until, over the intercom, a voice announced that Peyton Manning was heading onto the field. The cheers were deafening. The excitement was contagious, and I too found myself cheering on this man – it only took a few snaps before I knew that I had fallen in love with football.

Since then, I have attended multiple Colts games, adorned in my own Manning jersey, and have become a part of the blue sea in the stadium. If I could not be there in person, I was at home cheering in front of the TV. I monitored Manning’s stats, giving him pep talks through the TV like I was a part of the huddle.  I hated the New England Patriots – and still do, like any true Colts fan – and knew that the Tennessee Titans and the Jacksonville Jaguars always gave us trouble at home, even when it was supposed to be an easy matchup.

In 2006, I attended the AFC Championship and watched the miraculous comeback by the Colts, thanks to the dynamic duo of Manning and Marvin Harrison. I remember hearing the victory roar as we sprinted to the car to beat the traffic. That year, the Colts defeated the Chicago Bears to win the NFL Championship, and I felt a surge of pride as Manning lifted the trophy.

The day he left the Colts, I cried. Manning was the reason I fell in love with football and the Colts. The loss of Manning was every sports lover’s worst nightmare. I have never loved the Colts as much as I once did with Peyton Manning leading the offense. When it was announced that he was signing with the Denver Broncos, I knew it was time to make room in my heart for another team. I followed both teams and continued to support Manning. I joined fellow Colts’ fans in the heartache that ensued during his first return to Indianapolis. I like Andrew Luck, but he was not, nor will he ever be, Manning, and I think that realization spread throughout the stadium on that day.

When the Broncos were destroyed by the Seahawks in the 2014 Super Bowl, I defended Manning’s talent and knew that he would never be satisfied with that being his last trip to the championship. His injuries in the 2015-16 season were worrying, and some doubted that he would not make his return, but I never doubted that Manning would return to the field in order to make a run for the Super Bowl. Super Bowl 50 may have not have been his best career performance, but if you take into account his injuries and what it took to get the Broncos that far, it is incredible what this man has accomplished.

Manning has been nothing but exceptional and humble. He does not have to act like he is tearing his shirt open to prove that he is superman or dab in some show of skill. Manning lets his numbers and career speak for themselves. There has never been a Spygate or Deflategate for Manning because he has too much respect for the game. Even when there was speculation about his possible use of HGH in a story that has since then has been debunked, nobody believed that he cheated the game. Manning is the epitome of an athlete both on and off the field. The Super Bowl victory was the 200th of his career, including regular and post-season games, making him the record holder for most wins for a quarterback in the history of NFL. He is also the first starting quarterback to win the Super Bowl with two different teams. He ties John Elway and Terry Bradshaw for third all-time in post-season wins, with 14. Manning was the oldest quarterback to start a Super Bowl and is now the oldest to win one. He holds the record for the most passing yards with 71,940. Although this is a career to boast about, you will only hear words of appreciation from Manning: for his teammates, for God, for his fans, and for his family.

If this is it Manning, thank you. Thank you for helping me fall in love with football. Thank you for all the close games, for all the desperate screams at the T.V., for the wins, for the losses, for the championships, and for your respect for the game. You are an admirable human being. If this is it, I thank you, your fans thank you and football thanks you.