The Best Gift Peyton Manning Ever Gave Me

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My second favorite number

One Sunday evening in mid-November, Mike came home from a hockey game and was amused at what he found.

I was sitting on the couch, watching Sunday Night Football.  I wasn’t watching the Colts.  In fact, I think it might have been the Patriots-Jets game.  “You’re just sitting there, watching the game?  On purpose?”

You see, when Mike and I married nearly 15 years ago, neither of us would’ve ever imagined this scenario.  I wasn’t raised in a family that loved sports.  We barely played sports (not well, anyway) and watching sports was a rare occasion.  So the idea that one day I would sit down and watch a game by myself, because I was actually interested in the game?  Inconceivable.

And then Peyton Manning came along.  We had just moved to Tennessee when Peyton was a senior at University of Tennessee.  I don’t know exactly what it was that made me pay attention.  Maybe it was that God-awful Volunteer orange.  Maybe I was bored one Saturday.  Maybe I felt silly for being one of the only people in Nashville that didn’t know who he was.  But I uncharacteristically took the time to watch him play, and something clicked.  I liked him.

If I liked him as a Volunteer, I grew to love him as an Indianapolis Colt.  It was all new to me.  I never had a team to root for, I never cared.  But I liked this dorky white guy, with his goofy mannerisms at the line of scrimmage.  God help me, I actually learned what line of scrimmage meant.  Little by little, I started to watch games.  A quarter here, a half there.  I sat on the couch with Mike and asked questions.

As seasons passed I grew more and more enamored with Peyton, possibly bordering on the obsessed.   But at the same time, I began to fall in love with the game.  Simply caring about a quarterback made me care about the Colts. The next thing I knew, I had fallen in love with football.

I love Peyton because he understands how Hoosiers tick.  You show up, you work hard, you don’t draw unnecessary attention to yourself.  You don’t brag or trash-talk.  You do things the right way, the quiet way and believe that one day you’ll be respected for it.  That’s the Midwestern way.  I love Peyton because he can laugh at himself.  I love Peyton because he’s a perfectionist.  I love Peyton because he orchestrated some of the most thrilling football I’ve ever seen.  I love Peyton because he led us to a Super Bowl and gave us humble Hoosiers a chance to call ourselves champions.  I love Peyton for all the good he does in our community.  But most of all, I love Peyton because he turned me into a fan of the game.

And because I’m a fan, I’ve met some of the most interesting people.  I’ve nearly peed my pregnant pants jumping and screaming in an AFC Championship game.  I’ve learned to love sports talk radio almost as much as NPR.  But most importantly, because I’m a fan, I’ve grown closer to my husband.  I love the look he gets on his face when I know a random fact or stat that amazes him.  I love that we always have something to talk about.  And I love that on any given Sunday in football season I have someone to snuggle with while we watch a game.

Peyton Manning

It hurts to say goodbye to Peyton Manning as our quarterback.  It won’t ever be the same here without him, and for that I’m simply heartbroken. Peyton will most likely play in another uniform next year.  In the somewhat near future he’ll retire.  But thanks to him, I’ll be able to spend the next few decades of football season enjoying the stories that have yet to be told, the thrillers that have yet to be played.

Thanks for fourteen amazing years, Peyton.


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  1. I love that you have this with your husband, and I wish I had this with mine. Maybe next time?

  2. love it. and we should totally get the fams together and watch a Sunday afternoon game.

  3. I can’t fathom why the Colts would ever let Payton Manning go. I’m sure whatever team picks him up that Payton WILL SUCCEED therefore making that team successful in the process! Might just take that team all theway to the Superbowl! BTW, I’m a long time Patriots fan but I know when I see a great quarterback & Payton Manning is certainly in that class!

    • Wherever he goes, I hope there’s at least one Brady-Manning matchup a season. Those were some of my favorite games to watch.

  4. Amy P in Indy says:

    I can’t watch or read one darn thing about Peyton leaving without tearing up, and this post was no exception. Beautifully written. I’ll be a Colts fan and a Peyton Manning fan, next year, and for the rest of my life. And my husband gets that same look in his eye when I talk football or basketball (go Hoosiers!) – it is indeed a fun thing to share!

  5. I hope your love for the game continues. Mine has never been the same without Steve McNair & D. Mason.

    • I always considered myself a Colts fan first, but those years in Tennessee with Air McNair, Eddie George, the Freak, and Frank Wycheck were awesome. I know they all had a hand in sealing my love for the game. Who couldn’t fall in love with football after watching the Music City Miracle? Still so sad about McNair …

  6. I felt the same way about Joe Montana. He was the reason I first started watching football. There will be football life after Peyton, I promise you:).

  7. Just a great post.

    I actually became a Colts fan because of Peyton too. As a Canadian, I had no connection to any team, but I started following Peyton around the same time you did.

    My girlfriend’s a Cowboys fan, but I am still willing to cuddle her on Sundays. In my defense, she’s REALLY cute.

  8. Angie: loved reading this post, and it totally reminded me of my wife.
    Similar story: she wasn’t a big sports fan, but then started following Peyton’s brother, Eli, when he was QBing at Ole Miss, and then followed his career through the draft, and into the NFL. She then morphed into this huge Giants fan, and now knows every member of the team, many PAST members, can recite stats, and wears either her 2008 NFC Champions long sleeve T or her pink #10 Jersey while watching games.
    Then she started watching other games, like you…although for her, it was usually to root AGAINST somebody. She loves when the Eagles, the Patriots or the Cowboys LOSE, LOL!
    We are talking tiny, petite, total southern-belle girly-girl here, so this totally came out of left field.
    But it’s AWESOME!!! I LOVE it!!! (BTW, she loves Peyton too, and has been avidly watching the Peyton Manning World Tour this weekend. She thinks he’s gonna pick the Broncos.)

    • Sounds like your wife and I would be good friends. Tell her we named our son Eli after Eli Manning. Or I did, anyways. I petitioned for Peyton but my husband wasn’t having it. We picked Elliot instead, and the entire pregnancy I thought to myself, “And we shall call him Eli!” There’s something about those Manning boys. Glad you have a football companion for life, and thanks for reading.

  9. Danny Balva says:

    Beautifully written.
    I´m from Mexico, i don´t root for any team in particular, but i love the game and definitely love players who makes the game look good.

    I´m definitely a Peyton Manning fan. His professionalism and level, are impressive and makes me feel lucky and privileged, to watch him play.