I know I’m a few weeks late to the game posting this. I’ve had a major bout of writers block lately (which is just fantastic when you make a living writing). That seems to be lifting and I need to get these thoughts about Manning’s retirement out there.
First of all, I think I need to make sure my readers know my “history” with Manning (no, we didn’t used to date- not that kind of history.)
Growing up in Denver in the early ’90s meant growing up under the John Elway regime. I grew up spending Sundays watching that man dominate a football. As an only child, Sunday afternoons were a special time to spend with my Dad watching the game. From an early age I developed a love for football and used to spend weekends in high school on the couch watching any college or pro game I could while I did homework. From 8th grade year through my senior year of High School I only missed 2 of my High School’s home games (Go Bear Creek Bears!) and 7 away games (most of which were out of state or way out of town) Football was a huge part of my childhood. My Dad and I went to both Super Bowl parades together and I remember thinking that winning the Super Bowl was just about the most magical thing that could ever happen to a city.
When you grow up with Elway as the king of the city you also gain an appreciation for quarterbacks. My high school’s QB was one of the top in the nation and I always kept an eye on the QB when I watched games. I had heard about Archie Manning and remember being so excited when I could catch Peyton playing in a Tennesee game. After he was signed to the Colts my weekend football priority was to watch the Broncos game first and the Colts game second. Not as many games aired back then so it was always exciting to get to watch him play. I bet if you asked my high school or college classmates what they remembered about me one thing they would say is how much I loved football.
In 2002 as part of a project for my Senior high school Psych class we had to write a list of 10 things we wanted to do before we died. Mine included the typical “get married, have kids, travel” as well as “See Dave Matthew’s in concert” and “See U2 at Red Rocks like my folks did” (don’t think that’s going to happen but I did see them at Mile High).
My #10 item was to see Peyton Manning play as the QB for the Denver Broncos.
My Dad said it would never happen, he’d never leave the Colts. My other football friends said it would never happen. I held out hope.
I graduated and went on to college and ended up with a roommate my freshman year from Indiana. She was a Colts fan and loved Manning. We were roommates for 3 of our 4 years and it was a blast to have someone to watch Manning play with. The Colts were the only team I was ok to lose to and I would banter with my roommate and other Colts friends at college that someday the Broncos would get Manning. My son was born October 19, 2010- I tried so hard for him to come on the 18th…
Everyone said it would never happen.
The rest, as they say, is history. I watched in tears as he got hurt, benched and finally cut. When he started talking to the Broncos this little sliver of hope arose. My son has loved football from the time he was a tiny toddler. I taught him to say Manning and he’s pretty much lived in a Broncos jersey since he could pick out his own clothes. (Ironically my husband isn’t much of a football fan but enjoys the experience with us)
March 20, 2012– I’ll never forget where I was when I got the breaking news text on my phone and my Facebook wall started flooding with the news. Manning was coming to Denver. I was at work with my tiny toddler son- the store was empty and I screamed when I get the news (good thing no one was there!) I picked up my son and we jumped up and down. He was only 18 months old and had no idea what was going on but he was laughing and saying “Manning, Manning!”
10 years of bantering, 10 years of “one day it’ll happen, just wait and see.” My Dad was the first one I called- they live in Sacramento, CA now so he hadn’t gotten the news. I was crying and all I could say was “He’s coming to Denver Dad!”
We bought our Manning jerseys and my son would wear pretty much nothing else for the next 4 years (and probably well beyond that). He even had his 4-year-old photos taken in his jersey. He’s been obsessed with orange since he was tiny and when he’s not wearing his Manning jersey he is wearing something else Broncos related. We even went through almost a year long phase where he wouldn’t respond to his name- only to Peyton. He also happens to have a natural knack for football and throws a mean spiral.
We went to the summer scrimmage that August and joined the crowd that went wild for Manning in a Broncos jersey. Over the next 4 years we went to several training camps and to all the summer scrimmages. Manning broke the touchdown passing record on my son’s 4th birthday (he is still convinced it was a special birthday gift for him). One thing was missing- actually seeing him play in a game.
I’m a Colorado native and have only been to one Broncos game- they’re just too darn expensive. We knew this season might be my only chance to actually see him play but we couldn’t get tickets. Until a friend had some available for the Chargers game on January 3, 2016. It was the last home game of the season and when we bought the tickets Manning was still injured and we had no idea if he’d play or not.
When they put him in the game my son and I went crazy- we were jumping up and down and screaming. I couldn’t talk the whole next day. Check that one off the bucket list. It was the most amazing game to get to be at.
Every playoff game felt like the end. When the Super Bowl came around I turned down offers for parties (we don’t own a TV so we always have to mooch to watch games) and we watched it at my in-laws while they were out of town. I wanted to absorb every play, every moment of watching him play because I had a feeling it would be the end. I couldn’t talk most of that week between the victory and the parade. (You’re welcome Denver- I like to joke that I brought him here with my teenage optimism and brought the trophy back)
Then we waited and waited for the decision to come. We continued to pray for Manning, watched highlight clips, The Book of Manning, and our favorite of his commercials and SNL clips and waited. People asked me if I thought he’d retire and I told them I hoped he would. His kids are about the same age as my son and I wanted him to be able to enjoy the time with his children- this age is so much fun. I wanted his children to have a healthy Daddy. When we got the news there were tears- I’ll never forget holding my weeping boy in my arms. It was the right decision and probably the hardest decision Manning ever made.
The day of his retirement speech I had chills. It was the end of an era for the best QB we’ve ever seen and the end of an era. I’d spent more than half my life watching him play and over 1/3 of my life hoping he’d come to Denver.
There will likely never be an athlete of his caliber again- not to mention a man who loves the Lord, talks openly about his faith and prayer life. An awesome Daddy, overall good guy and so so funny. (We’re putting in our vote for him to do more comedy) A man who I am ok with my son looking up to as a role model. Good role models for young boys are so hard to find.
I can’t wait to see what Manning does next in his journey- I don’t think he’s done in the football world. For us, we’ll continue to pretend to be him, cheer on the Broncos, play tons of football and have lots of adventures with Mini-Manning. Follow our adventures on Instagram!
Thank you Peyton Manning for revolutionizing football, being an amazing role model, making us laugh and for helping me knock one more thing off my bucket list.