Manning Press Conference Transcript

Following his acceptance of the Walter Payton NFL Player of the Year Award, Colts quarterback Peyton Manning fielded some questions from the media.

Q: Your career is off to a great start. Walter's career ended in the Hall of Fame. Just watching him go through his life on and off the field, what has inspired you looking at what he's been able to accomplish and what he was able to accomplish?

PEYTON MANNING: Well, a lot of what I know about Walter is what former players have told me. Obviously I wasn't around for a long time while he was playing. But my dad -- he and my dad were good friends. My dad said how special he made everybody else feel. What a great player he was. But he was a practical joker, but always made guys feel good about being around him. Just kind of that attitude in life and the way he helped kids and the foundation he and Connie have been able to do to help kids, those kind of things inspire me, and inspired all of these other players. There's so many great players, Derrick Brooks, Warrick Dunn last year, you've heard the list.

I just know right now while I'm playing I have the biggest platform to make an impact on kids. My foundation will continue when I retire, not anytime soon, but we can make the biggest impact right now, so we're trying to take advantage of this right now.

Q: When did you learn that you should give back? Did it happen when you joined the NFL or was it earlier?

A: Well, I had a great mentor, my father, who was drafted by the Saints in 1971, lives there today. He lived there in the off season, committed himself to the community there in New Orleans, very involved. I think people in New Orleans respect my dad for what he did on the field, but more so off the field. He lives in the community, one of the guys that played for New Orleans in the season and moved back to Mississippi in the off season.

I try to do it the same way. I live in Indianapolis year-round, my foundation is based there, and I've devoted myself to that community. But not forgetting New Orleans and the impact the State of Tennessee had on me, as well. He was my mentor in that regard, but also, when I got to the NFL, realizing what these other players have done. The hospital Dan Marino formed. These children's playgrounds that Troy Aikman has formed. The trips that Derrick Brooks takes with the kids, goes to Africa, the lifesaving trips. The homes that Warrick Dunn builds for the homeless. That inspired me to roll my sleeves up and try to do something.

Q: You talked a lot about how Eli and you do things together. How much of this honor to you share with him?

A:  I'm real proud of Eli. And Eli has big goals, certainly being in New York he can have a huge impact. He's really studying some groups that he can make an impact on. I was proud to go down to Louisiana with him on that trip. He probably had to work a little more than I did. He got to Indy, we got down to the plane and went down to Louisiana to visit with the people in shelters and talk to them. I was real proud of Eli and certainly share this award with him.

Q: Do you get support from other players and other teams and who would they be?

A: No question. First of all, I feel lucky to play for a guy in Tony Dungy, who is as active in the community as anybody I've ever seen, still down in Tampa and has gotten very involved in Indianapolis. I have great teammates that attend any kind of fundraisers we have. We have a bowling event and not a very good golfing football team, we've got some good bowlers on the Colts. They attend those functions and I'm appreciative of their support. And also, obviously, throughout the NFL, do a lot of jersey trading. But Ray Lewis calls and says, I need a 18 Manning jerseys, he's got a Ray Lewis 52 jersey we can auction off. I've got a lot of jerseys from Brooks, Marino, Favre, you name it, it's a real support among each other in the NFL, and guys who know what other players are doing. That's what makes it kind of a special fraternity.

Q: Connie was talking a little bit about your web page and the forum that you have with the kids, and I was wondering if you could maybe share with us what's maybe one of the more challenging or kind of deeper questions that you've been asked that you really have had to wrestle with to give an honest answer?

A: Well, no question, and there's some kids, whether it's on the website or speaking at a lot of schools you get, who hits you the hardest, why did you throw that interception, those are the questions you usually get. But then you do get some tough ones and people that are asking about a bully at school or certainly hear about
problems at home with parents. And so kids today have it a lot tougher than even when I was growing up, it wasn't very long ago.

There's so many temptations out there. The advice I try to give them is to take ten seconds somewhere in there to think about what's the right thing to do. You've got a choice, do I go with this person, do I get in this car, do I hang out with this friend, or do I say, let me think about this, what's the right thing to do and walk away. That's what I tried to do, but it's tougher and tougher. That's why they need our support, they need somebody to look up to, whether it's a parent, teacher, guidance counselor, or coach. We're trying to help these kind of kids and help the groups that are going to help these kids as much as we can.


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