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Manning overcomes doubts, injuries to earn Hall of Fame status


DENVER — Peyton Manning was coming off a series of neck operations in 2012, amid several chapters of his Hall of Fame career, when former college teammate and then-Colorado Rockies slugger Todd Helton took him for a private workout at Coors Field. invited.

Helton thought Manning was turning around when his first throw got flustered and cut short.

This was no joke.

Manning was in the midst of retraining his brain to release the ball on time and on target after missing the entire 2011 season and undergoing multiple cervical spine surgeries, which left the fingers on his right hand numb.

“He had nothing,” Helton told several years ago. “But I knew he would come back and become Peyton Manning again because no one else works so hard.”

Manning overcame his neck problems to throw 140 of his 539 career touchdown passes for Denver, including a record 55 in 2013. In four years, he led the Broncos to four AFC West titles, two conference championships, and one Super Bowl 50 victory. A serious leg injury to go along with the Super Bowl he won with the Colts nearly a decade ago.

Manning retired a month after becoming the first quarterback to win a Super Bowl with two franchises, and he was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame 24 hours before his friend and longtime nemesis Tom Brady, who leads Tampa Bay. Joined a special club. Kansas City 55 in the Super Bowl six months ago.

“I’ve definitely wanted to play for the Indianapolis Colts throughout my career because they were the team that drafted me” 1 overall in 1998, Manning said as he considered his upcoming joining at Canton. “I was fascinated by John Elway only being a Bronco, Dan Marino only a dolphin, Troy Ekman-cowboy, groomed by my father New Orleans, lived most of his career in New Orleans. So, that was my plan. .

The Colts moved to Andrew Luck after Manning missed the 2011 season and Indianapolis secured the No. 1 overall selection in the 2012 NFL Draft.

After an emotional departure to Indy, Manning embarked on the most anticipated free agency tour since Reggie White bowled Philadelphia to Green Bay in 1993.

“And the Denver bus, boy, they welcomed me with open arms,” ​​Manning said. “They were the only team that understood what I thought I was going through emotionally, physically, and I think a lot of it is Elway. Elway has been flirting to move on to other teams, rumors or other things. Key and I think he knew how it would probably affect him. He certainly knew the injuries.”

Manning said only the Broncos were willing to meet him halfway.

“They were the only team that said, ‘Hey, Peyton, give us your Indianapolis Colts playbook, we’ll make this hybrid offense with plays we love here in Denver that we think will help you at this point in your career. We will, Manning revealed, ‘it will create a web of guilt and really give you a chance to go back again.’ And not every other team was doing the same.

Manning said that he felt like a visitor to his own locker room for his entire first season in Denver, but he soon adopted the city where he and his family still live.

“I have a great relationship with Indianapolis and am still very involved in the community, just like I am in Knoxville and New Orleans,” Manning said. “But you can only stay in one place and Denver has just been a great place to live and I’ve enjoyed being part of the community and really couldn’t have made a better decision… back in 2012.”

Almost from his pro debut in 1998, Manning was a mastermind for the way he deciphered defenses and directed play on the line of scrimmage, from tackle to tackle, pointing and hollering, as he would for every quarterback who came in. became a model. with.

Manning was never the best athlete, but his off-the-charts preparation and other-worldly memory recall elevates him above the rest.

“He beat you mentally,” said DeMarcus Ware, who had come to Denver like many others for a chance to play with Manning. “He was his guide: physically you may be faster than me, you may be more athletic than me, but I’m going to beat you every time.”

When Manning retired, his father, Archie, said that he was more impressed with the way his son won his second Super Bowl “with his body than with his mind after winning his first.”

Manning chose his father to introduce him to the canton.

“Never was my coach, but was always my mentor,” Manning said, noting that his father’s rule was that he would gladly give any advice as long as he was asked.

Manning said that he was hard pressed to limit his acceptance speech to the allotted 8 minutes because so many people took part in his illustrious football journey.

Manning said, “Unfortunately, this isn’t enough time to thank everyone. The good thing is that over the past five years, either on a handwritten note or over a phone call or in person, I’ve been able to thank people.” Personally. So, even though I won’t get to repeat them all in the speech, the thanks are still as heartfelt as they were then.”

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