“Greatness from Day One”\\
I was there the first day, the first game, the first pass he ever threw.
Peyton Manning has retired after a brilliant career, leading the Indianapolis Colts to respectability and a Super Bowl ring, and returning the Denver Broncos to greatness, with another drive for a ring.
I was there the day he debuted and I won’t forget it.
This after all the things he did at Tennessee in the Southeastern Conference, leading the Volunteers to greatness, electing to stay an extra year rather than grabbing the big money and the brass ring.
The expectations were amazing right from the get-go and he answered the challenge that very first moment.
We will never see him direct traffic at the line of scrimmage again. We will forever hear the echo of that famous call “Omaha-Omaha”. We will remember the no huddle attack. His ability to read defenses. His signature short passes to all parts of the field.
He arrived in Indianapolis as they rebuilt the down trodden Colts, the franchise that gave us Jeff George, (1-13) seasons, and some bad head coaches.
He made everybody around him more dangerous, whether it was journeyman wide receivers, little known tight ends, after thought running backs.
He played for a franchise that I really felt let him down. In Indy, they didn’t draft great talent around him. His offensive line was suspect. His defense undersized, but he kept them in the playoff hunt yearly, and got them a Super Bowl ring.
In Denver, coming off neck surgeries, he brought the Broncos back. He was the bridge till they built a great defense to go with his offensive leadership.
And though he wanted to throw all the time, and he would go no-huddle at the drop of a hat, he refined his game to fit what the new coach wanted. Somehow, as his skills slipped away, he reinvented his personality to be a game manager.
His battles were amazing. The gunslinger duels with Philip Rivers. The post season wars with Tom Brady. The battles with the brilliance of New England’s Bill Belicheck..
He had just 9-TDs and 17-picks trying to make Gary Kubiak’s run first, throw second offense work. And finally, he got it done, surviving a foot injury, to rally the team, save the season, and get them to Super Bowl Sunday.
My favorite story was his first coach, Jim Mora-Senior telling me about their first meeting at the NFL combines. The Colts were to interview him, but it was Manning who did the interview, walking in with a notebook full of questions about the offense, the coaches, the organization, the city, the state.
And I was there that first day, first moment, first game.
I was the Voice of the Seahawks, doing my first game, in the preseason of 1998. Manning was making his first start for the Colts at the Kingdome in Seattle.
1st down at his own 12-yard line after the opening kickoff. The building rocking, anticipation everywhere. How good would he be? Could he carry this awful franchise on his right arm?.
Shotgun, deep drop, 88-yard TD pass on a deep post to Marvin Harrison.
The rest is history…..nearly 72,000-passing yards, a career record of (200-92), 539-TD passes, and those rings.
I have seen greatness at quarterback over the years doing NFL play-by-play, from the final year of Dan Fouts, to the gun-slinger that was Brett Favre, to the genius era of John Elway.
Peyton Manning was all that and more. Superb player-superb person.
The first play I ever saw was a calling card of so many other great plays over all those years. A memory of a lifetime.