The day was March 7, 2012, the day Peyton Manning was released by the Indianapolis Colts. Now four years later to the day, March 7, 2016 Manning is set to announce his retirement from the NFL after an 18 year career that includes multiple league record and two Super Bowl titles. He is the first quarterback to ever lead two different teams to championships.
In the days following Manning release that Tennessee Titans founding owner Bud Adams issued the order to sign Manning as the next starting quarterbak of the Titans no matter what it took.
The days leading up to the announcement were filled with rumors, stories and a media steakout across the street when it was learned that Manning would indeed come visit the Titans at the then Baptist Sports Park offices.
Myself and multiple other media members stood guard in the parking lot as we watched a car driven by then Titans head coach Mike Munchak enter the parking lot carrying Manning. The fans who had also gathered cheered as the University of Tennessee legend stepped out of the car and waved to those assembled outside the fences waiting to get a glimpse or comment from the man of the hour.
The media got no closer to Manning that the distance from the fence to where the car was parked and Titans officials made no comments on what was happening inside the facility.
Everyone was left to speculate, wonder and hope that the Titans could bring Manning home to Tennessee.
In the days following the spectacle that transpired that day on Music Circle Drive, rumors abounded as to where Manning would, and would not choose to continue his hall of fame career. Media members scoured sources for any shread of evidence that might give us a clue as to where Manning was leaning.
It was the story of the decade and to the victor who broke the story went the spoils.
I was a young writer- in terms of years in the writing business- though I have been in sports media, and in particular radio for over 20 years prior to beginning the writing portion of my career. I was eager and being first to know where Manning was going would have put me on the map in a way that nothing else ever could.
I wanted it so badly that I made the mistake of my young career.
After speaking with a source who to this day I call a friend, and evaluating the best information I could gather and conclude, I decided to write a story that would change my career.
According to the information, I decided to put in print that Manning had eliminated the Denver Broncos from consideration. The hours that followed brought a flood of comments from the social meida world of Twitter, mostly from Broncos fans and Denver media who assaulted me with comments, some funny, other sarcastic and some that spoke of my heritage and what I could do with myself.
I stood by my report until the fateful news dropped on my head.
Not only did Manning not eliminate the Broncos, but he was signing with Denver.
Those same people who had doubted my first report were now in full-fledged assault mode. I was the biggest joke in the media. It was the first, and thankfully only time so far that I ever trended on Twitter as in a four hour period I received over 400 comments, mostly negative about my character and ability as a news source.
I sat on my living room couch in stunned silence, not knowing what to do or how to recover from this crushing event.
The moments that followed changed me as a writer and as a media member in general.
The thought came to me that I had made a mistake- a major one- and there was no hiding from that mistake. Instead I decided to embrace my mistake, accept the consequences and move on. To do that I needed to publicly acknowledge my incorrect report.
I began writting an article apologizing to the fans of the Broncos and admitting my mistake while at the same time standing by my sources and coming clean about how I came to report what I had written. When I was finished, I felt as though I had produced the best piece of my career to that point.
I took to social media to share my apology and efforst by sending a link to Mike Klis, the main Denver media member who had taken me to task on social media. I also sent to to the most volitile of those fans who had wished me death or worse.
Shortly after the article was made public, it was Klis who turned my day, and my fortunes around with one small tweet.
By accepting my apologies and commenting on my integrity and character to publicly admit I was wrong, Klis turned those haters into supporters who realized that I had made a mistake, but was willing to admit that mistake and do it publicly.
By the end of day two my ordeal was over and not only had I survived, I had learned a valuable lesson and picked up over one hundred new followers in the process.
That one mistake showed me the importance of confirming every single thing with more than one source before rushing to report something. I might not be first to break a story, but I will never be wrong and I will always have my integrity as a reporter, and more importantly a person when I take the time to confirm things through more than one outside source.
It was my mistake in an effort to be first to report on Manning that changed my outlook on reporting. I met Peyton early on in his NFL career, but have not had the pleasure of seeing him again since that day outside the fence at what is now St. Thomas Sports Park.
Now as Manning prepares to announce his retirement this morning, I'm reminded of the lessons I learned that day and have carried with me from that day forward.
Thank you Peyton. Maybe one day I will have the chance to share this story and thank him in person.