You know how there are certain people that you just can't stand, you don't know why, they just bug you? Peyton Manning was one of those people for many, many years. Maybe it was his giant head, his corny Oreo commercials, his southern drawl, whatever it was, it wasn't working for me.
But after watching his press conference today, and doing some reading on him, I've come around on my stance with Peyton. I've even developed some respect for number 18. It has come to my attention that he's done A LOT for the city of Indianapolis, and the state of Indiana.
You see, before Peyton arrived, Indiana was known for three things: Hoosiers, the Indianapolis 500, and the hick from French Lick. I used to think of Indiana as a rural state. A bunch of farms with barns and worn out backboards above the barn door. Usually they had a crack in them, or a big chunk was missing. The rim was rusty, and the net would be worn out...yeah, that kind.
The Colts were an after-thought. I remember them having a few good years in the mid-90's, but other than that, they were irrelevant. When Peyton Manning arrived there, he changed all of that. After a tough rookie year, the Colts got better under him. So good in fact, he turned that basketball crazed state into a football one.
How much you wanna bet, the name Peyton rose in popularity for newborn baby boy's since 1998? How many kids in their backyards playing football with their friends put on a number 18 jersey? How many probably got in fights over who got to wear the number 18? All of that occurred because Peyton made a once irrelevant franchise, into a relevant one.
"I think in terms of the sport and the state of Indiana, he made football relevant in Indiana," said former Colts executive Bill Pollian.
But his contributions to the state of Indiana were more than just about wins and losses, he also did a lot off the field.
For instance, he's got a children's hospital named after him. He also started the "Peyback Foundation" which helps area high school athletes. And there are many other examples I'm sure, but you don't hear about those because a lot of it is done in private.
"He does all of this without fanfare or camera's, said Eddie Birchell, one of many hardcore Colt fans feeling pain today, "he does a ton of stuff you never hear about because he is such a private person," Birchell added.
Private, but it's meant a lot to the state. "Big time, that's for sure," Birchell said.
For his entire existence in the NFL, I hated Peyton Manning for no particular reason, but I have a new found respect for him today. I've learned about how much he's meant to a community. How much he did both on and off the field for them. And watching him in his press conference he showed a human side to me I've not seen from him before. By chosing not to retire a Colt, Peyton will finish out his career in another team's uniform. But Colt fans shouldn't worry...nobody thinks of Joe Montana as a Chief, nobody thinks of Brett Farve as a Jet or Viking, or nobody thinks of Jerry Rice as a Seahawk or Bronco.
Peyton Manning will always be remembered as a Colt.