PFM. 18. Future Hall of Famer. Class Act. Peyton Manning.
I wrote this first section of the article before Super Bowl 50. I’ve added the second as we await his formal retirement announcement.
A Jim Collins’ Level 5 Leader carries themselves with a blend of Humility and Will. In my leadership classes and coaching,
I often reference Peyton Manning as a Level 5 Leader. I do not reference him for supervisors, managers, or executives. Peyton is not in that role. I reference Peyton as one who embodies the ideal characteristics for Lead Workers; a peer leader on the team, not the boss. I know that Peyton is not perfect. He has made his share of mistakes and bad choices. What I am referencing is the person the public has seen over the last 18 years, and the person for whom his teammates have expressed a great deal of respect and appreciation. They often just call him “18”.
I have been a Peyton Manning fan since his first NFL season. I remember walking through the airport talking to my brother (on what at the time was a fairly new device called a cell phone) discussing who we thought was going to win the Patriots – Colts game. They both had hot new young quarterbacks; which one had the better skill to help their team win? From that moment on I kept my eye on both quarterbacks, but Peyton won my heart. I always appreciated his incredible skill, but as I paid more & more attention to him I gained a deep respect for him as a person, and even more so as a leader.
I remember was when Peyton (and Tony Dungy, another of my NFL favorites) finally won it all – Super Bowl XLI in 2007. It was fabulous!!! Finally the commentators could stop saying that Peyton was the best “regular season” quarterback who couldn’t win it all. But then the conversation was could he win two, that for him to be the GOAT (Greatest of All Time) he needed to win another. UGH. That talk just frustrated me and made me sad. I think I was one of the few people outside of Indianapolis cheering for the Colts in Super Bowl XLIV in 2010 against the New Orleans Saints. The Saints story was incredible, and the city of the New Orleans so needed something to celebrate after Hurricane Katrina, but my heart was with Peyton. Sadly (to me) the Colts lost. In the meantime, he continued to be one of the kindest and most generous Americans. Peyton has done many, many things we all know about, and many, many things that we will never know about.
In 2011 Peyton missed his first season. This was the neck surgery year. Four neck surgeries. I prayed for Peyton a lot that year. My biggest prayer was that he would be healed and be able to lead a healthy life after football. I kept thinking, “At least he won one. At least he will go into the Hall of Fame.” But he wasn’t done. I remember him being released by Indianapolis, and then talking to other teams. He couldn’t throw the ball well yet, but reports were that he was fully healed and expected to regain strength. I was cautiously optimistic for him, hoping that no doctor would clear him if there was even then the slightest chance that re-injury would be life threatening. I was torn between wanting him to find a new team and have a few more successful years and wanting him to retire to be safe. I became even more torn when one of those teams he was talking to was the Broncos. I was THRILLED when he did become a Bronco and his arm came back! I could recap all of the exciting games, but that would take another few pages. I’m sure you remember some, and you can read the rest elsewhere.
What you may not know about Peyton is that he is HILARIOUS! If you haven’t had the privilege of Peyton playing in your city, you have missed out on some serious humor. You may have seen him on Saturday Night Live or in commercials, but that is nothing compared to the quick wit Peyton has on the fly. I wish I could remember it for you, but all I can remember is one press conference where he gave the reporters an imaginary injury report on themselves, including one with carpel tunnel from all of his texting. Just trust me. He is FUNNY!
Tonight Brett Favre and Tony Dungy were two of the people elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. An amazing quarterback who has sent Peyton messages of encouragement and the coach with whom Peyton spent most of his time. I have great hopes that this is a positive sign from the universe for this future HOF QB to win Super Bowl 50!
It happened! Peyton and the Broncos won Super Bowl 50!!! I know, I know, Peyton wasn’t the same Peyton that won Super Bowl XLI, but trust me, he was still a leader of that team and a reason they won. Watching the images of him as he rode the streets of Denver with John Elway and the Lombardi trophy was magical! I was one of a million in the crowd for his speech afterward at Civic Center Park…he was humble as always, giving all of the credit to his teammates.
I do want to say one quick thing about the assault charges from when he was at the University of Tennessee. I don’t know what happened. Most of us don’t. I hope that if there is any truth that Peyton has not spoken about this, he will. How can he look his daughter and son in the eye and tell them to be honest and honorable, if he has not been 100% honest and honorable about his own interactions.
Today Peyton will officially announce his retirement after poetically, 18 years. I had been hoping he would retire, not just to go out on top but to take care of his body. There have been few people like Peyton Manning. Flash forward to 2021 when we will be celebrating him again, only this time a Hall of Fame inductee. Cheers to you 18. Thanks for the memories!