Back in the 70s the name Archie Manning was associated with good old Sunday football. As quarterback for the New Orleans Saints, (1971- 1982) the Saints were one of many NFL teams attempting to reach the ultimate game, the Super Bowl. Archie Manning became a father of three boys, Cooper, Peyton and Eli Manning. Peyton and Eli would eventually showcase their incredible athletic abilities in college and in the National Football League’s field of play. The youngest, Eli Manning, is currently the quarterback for the New York Giants, holding impressive stats. The elder of the two, Peyton Manning would become one of the greatest – if not the greatest – NFL players of all time.
On Monday, an emotional Peyton Manning told the world he was retiring from the game of football. His emotions told the story of an amazing 18-year career of NFL records, family, team players, injuries, controversy, losses and Super Bowl wins. Manning waited one month following the milestone Super Bowl 50 championship win to make his decision – one that was expected, and yet bittersweet to his fan base. Yet another portion of a Hollywood script that foretold an incredible NFL legend winning the golden #50 Super Bowl.
Before Manning joined the Denver Broncos, he was drafted out of the University of Tennessee in 1998 as quarterback for the Indianapolis Colts. During his last year with the Tennessee Volunteers, Manning led the Volunteers to the 1997 SEC Championship. During this season, John Elway, his future boss, was leading the Denver Broncos to Super Bowl XXXII, ultimately beating the Green Bay Packers. The Denver Broncos under Elway’s lead, returned to Super Bowl XXXIII, beating the Atlanta Falcons.
Ironically, in 1983, John Elway, now Executive Vice President of Operations with the Denver Broncos organization, was drafted out of Stanford University by the then-Baltimore Colts, but he refused to play for the Colts and was later traded to the Denver Broncos. Although they are more than 15 years apart in age, Elway and Manning’s careers have similarities that seem scripted for a Hollywood movie.
Elway’s career played out as a Denver Bronco, where the NFL’s comeback kid would pull out oftentimes-magical wins in the original Mile High Stadium, and then their new stadium, Invesco Field at Mile High. An elusive Super Bowl championship would eventually materialize for Elway after five attempts in the Super Bowl, with Denver losing to the New York Giants in 1987, the Washington Redskins in 1988 and to the San Francisco 49er’s in 1990. During this NFL timeframe, Manning was merely a pre-teen.
Eight years later, in consecutive NFL seasons, 1997 and 1998, the Denver Broncos earned their way to Super Bowl victories beating the Green Bay Packers in 1997 and the Atlanta Falcons in 1998. Soon after that 1998 Super Bowl win, John Elway retired with the Denver Broncos, as the NFL’s oldest player at age 39.
Years later, as a member of the Denver Broncos organization and with the support of owner Pat Bowlen, that same home-town hero, would negotiate the acquisition of Peyton Manning, a 36-year-old injured football great, from the Indianapolis Colts.
Manning’s overall career with the Indianapolis Colts was stellar as quarterback from 1998-2011. The young quarterback broke records left and right earning a spot in Super Bowl XLI, beating the Chicago Bears – his first Super Bowl win. In 2011, Manning was injured in a football game and subsequent health issues ensued. The diagnosis was bleak, with reported neck and spinal injuries that only surgery could repair. His total recovery was questionable and it seriously looked like the end of Manning’s career. Stepping down from his position as quarterback of the Indianapolis Colts was emotional for the quarterback, the fans and the sports world. In 2012 the Indianapolis Colts released Manning from his contract and the Denver Broncos signed him up, quicker than you can say O-M-A-H-A.
For the next four years (2012-2016), Manning and the Denver Broncos won two AFC Championships and Super Bowl 50. Manning surpassed most NFL players’ records.
Both NFL legends, Elway and Manning began their career with the Colts, and both ended their careers as a Denver Bronco. Their similar paths eventually met in the Mile High City.
Number 7 and number 18 are gold in Denver and their fans will never forget the joy they have brought to the city. Their contributions have been beyond the football field, as they serve communities who need them. Denver fans found it extremely difficult saying goodbye to #7 in 1998 and found it just as difficult this week saying farewell to #18. Our optimism tells us that perhaps they can work together within the Denver Broncos organization—what a combination that would make!
So Hollywood, a script awaits you, with real life athletes, their families, fans, and let’s not forget the drama. Let’s title that movie, Colts eventually become Broncos. If not, the NFL Hall of Fame works too. #GOAT