Englewood, CO- When John Elway signed Peyton Manning, he told the assembled media that, for the Denver Broncos, Manning was their only option. “There’s no plan B,” Elway said. “We’re going with plan A.”
Four AFC West titles, 140 passing touchdowns, two AFC Championships, an NFL MVP Award, a Comeback Player of the Year Award, and one World Championship later, “plan A” worked out pretty well.
Peyton Manning announced his retirement from pro football after one of the most storied careers in the history of professional sports. There were plenty of tears, but plenty of smiles as well, as Manning celebrated his remarkable legacy with friends, former teammates, and his family.
The conference room at Dove Valley was filled to capacity as Denver Broncos President and CEO Joe Ellis reminded those in attendance of owner Pat Bowlen’s words when Manning signed with the Broncos four years ago.
“Our goal has always been to win Super Bowls,” Ellis, quoting Bowlen, said. “Peyton gives us the opportunity to win a World Championship.”
Ellis had praise of his own to laud on the five-time NFL MVP, and even dropped a hint about how the organization plans to honor him in the future.
“Peyton Manning made our team better, he made our organization better and he made our community better,” Ellis said. “All of us look forward to your Ring of Fame induction and Hall of Fame induction.”
Broncos General Manager John Elway, the man who led the recruiting effort that brought Manning to Denver in March of 2012, echoed Ellis’ sentiments in his brief remarks.
“Peyton Manning utilized every asset God gave him to be the best player he can be,” Elway said. “Thank you for becoming a Denver Bronco. We owe you a lot.”
Gary Kubiak, one of the five head coaches Manning has had during his career, told perhaps the most insightful story that’s ever been told at a retirement press conference. As Manning was recovering from a torn plantar fascia in his left foot last season, he worked by himself with a small team of receivers and training staff to get back to the field.
Those workout sessions were filmed, and as Manning got closer and felt ready to return to the field, Kubiak said the future first ballot Hall of Famer got his message across in no uncertain terms.
“As I’m watching the film, there’s something different about this one day,” Kubiak said. “Hey, we’re No. 1, you could take it that way.”
Yes, Peyton Manning flipped Gary Kubiak the bird.
“I took it as, ‘Hey, I’m ready to play coach,” Kubiak said.
After a short video tribute to Manning’s time with the Broncos, Manning stepped to the podium accompanied by a standing ovation and delivered one of the finest speeches ever given by a professional athlete.
Over the course of eighteen minutes at the podium, Manning wove the story of his remarkable NFL career with a thank you to teammates past and present, lots of trademark Manning humor, and more than a few tears.
“Today, I retire from pro football,” Manning said. “I love the game. People ask me if I’ll miss it. Of course I will.”
If Peyton will miss the game, imagine the millions of fans who will miss watching him play it.
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