Courey Marshall could not be any happier this week.
But learning he won the Courtyard-sponsored contest for all that awesomeness paled in comparison to how the announcement was delivered.
By Peyton Freaking Manning.
Basically, Marshall’s favorite person on the planet (other than his new wife, of course).
“I absolutely love Peyton Manning and have since 1999. He’s my idol, my hero, my role model,” Marshall told Mile High Report. “I’m blessed to have two bucket-list items in one week. Courtyard definitely delivered. That was some Mile High Magic right there.”
The Courtyard by Marriott Super Bowl Sleepover contest asked NFL fans last fall to submit via social media pictures or videos showing “why you are a one-of-a-kind fan.”
Marshall entered a photo montage from his courtship and wedding proving that his marriage was tied very directly to the Broncos winning Super Bowl 50.
Meeting his wife Chelsea via an online dating site with the handle “BroncosFan18,” their dating life revolved around Broncos games and it became the way they bonded as a couple.
When they got engaged in June 2016, Chelsea’s sister noted that it took the Broncos and Manning “getting their rings, so Chelsea could get hers.”
NFL fans till death do us part! Thank you to the Denver Broncos for getting their rings so @chels1011 could finally get her’s! #CourtyardSuperBowlContest #courtyardnfl #courtyard #footballlove #footballwedding #footballlovers #footballlife #denverbroncos #denverbroncosfans #nfl #broncos #broncosfan #nflfans #nflfan #nflsundays #nflseason #footballseason #football #footballfan @courtyardhotels @broncos
Long-time Peyton Manning fans
Marshall met his wife in 2013 and they enjoyed some incredible Peyton Manning years together. They also survived Manning’s 2015 season that was punctuated by the lowest of lows (getting benched after throwing five interceptions against the Chiefs) to the highest of highs (winning a Super Bowl with the Broncos).
Growing up in a small Texas town, Marshall became a No. 1 Manning fan as a 14-year-old kid when he and his dad and brother went to the 1999 Cowboys-Colts game in Indianapolis - the historic season Manning led the Colts to a turnaround 13-3 record from a 3-13 record the year prior and made his first trip to the Super Bowl.
Marshall’s father had played football at SMU under then-coach Ron Meyer, who spent some time as head coach of the Colts in the 80s. Meyer also brought in former SMU running back Eric Dickerson during that time, so the senior Marshall had several reasons to be a Colts fan - and to turn his sons on to the Colts.
When Manning joined the team, it was a no-brainer for the Marshall family to really get behind the Colts.
“I remember standing outside the team hotel in a line to get autographs as the players went into their team meeting,” Marshall recalled, laughing. “He came over and signed our cheap ‘Indianapolis Colts’ postcard we bought from the hotel.”
But it was another story from that night that really stood out to the eighth-grade Marshall. A father with a young daughter was unable to get an autograph from Manning before he and his teammates went into their meeting. Somehow that info got passed along to the Colts organization - and ultimately to Manning.
So as No. 18 was famous for doing, he took time out that evening to go meet the father and daughter personally and give them their autograph. Marshall specifically remembers the father telling everyone in the lobby what “a class act” the young Manning was.
“I remember thinking, ‘wow, I want to be just like Peyton,’” Marshall said. “That was my first ‘I love Peyton Manning’ moment.”
And since 1999, Marshall has been fortunate to have many more ‘I love Peyton’ moments - but perhaps none as special as 2015 when Manning and the Broncos hit a rough patch mid-season.
Marshall pens Manning a letter of encouragement
Marshall, who by then was a former U.S. Navy officer now working for a government contractor, watched with agony the way many fans did when Manning was benched after throwing his fifth interception against the Chiefs in Week 11. So three days later, Marshall - inspired by another letter to Manning - penned his own nine-page, hand-written note of encouragement to his all-time favorite player:
“Just as you have faced every challenge in football and in life, I have no doubt that you will continue to do the same as you work towards recovery from your recent injuries.”
“...You once said ‘Thank you from the bottom of my heart. I truly have enjoyed being your quarterback.’ No, Peyton...thank you from the bottom of my heart. I truly have enjoyed being your fan.”
Marshall went through his 14 years of being a Manning fan - from watching him win with the Colts to the year off in Indy and finally to him winning with the Broncos. As a student at the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md., from 2008-2012, Marshall coveted his free time on Sunday afternoons to watch football - specifically Manning.
“I poured my heart into [the letter] to give him some encouragement,” Marshall said, adding that the thing that makes Manning so special is not really the wins and the NFL records. It’s the time he takes to tell others - from fans to coaches to teammates to media - what they mean to him.
When a response from Manning arrived two weeks later with an autographed photo and some words of thanks, Marshall could not have been more appreciative.
“I literally checked my mail religiously, hoping he would reply,” he said. “And just as you would expect of Peyton Manning, he did.”
More than two years later, Marshall and his wife are content Broncos fans still thrilled to boast of their Manning fandom and acknowledge their first big date was a 2013 playoff game and their union was possible because of their mutual love for Manning.
“Chelsea likes to say she’s married to two people - me and Peyton,” Marshall laughs.
Manning delivers yet again
When Courtyard chose Marshall’s entry as the winner of the Super Bowl package, they made sure to do so with some extra flair - telling Marshall he was just coming in for a photo shoot for the contest finalists and having Peyton Manning behind a curtain giving “photo shoot” directions to Marshall.
As Manning appeared in person from behind the curtain to tell Marshall he had won, Marshall jumped in the air as if he had just watched The Sheriff throw another touchdown.
“I am so grateful Courtyard provided the video of that moment because my mind was all over the place when I heard his voice. I couldn’t believe it was Peyton,” Marshall said. “It was exactly like being a 7-year-old at Christmas. From the bottom of my heart I can tell you, I would have broken down and started crying if I wasn’t so surprised. I’m that big of a Peyton Manning fan.”
Marshall, a former high school football player who earned a football scholarship to the Naval Academy, kind of wishes now he had been thinking clearly enough to “talk football” with Manning.
“But I immediately went into the ‘fan zone,’” he admitted. “It was such a special moment for me.”
The California couple embarks on the trip of a lifetime to a frigid Minneapolis today - with winter parkas provided by Courtyard as well - and although they won’t get to watch their favorite team in the big game, they are still riding high from the week’s events.
“I’m absolutely thrilled to go to the Super Bowl,” Marshall said. “We can relax, not go in with guns a-blazing and just hoping our team wins. We can enjoy it.”
But like any true Broncos fan, he’s still hoping to see Denver there next year.