Peyton Manning is going to officially be named a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s Class of 2021 tonight.
And because it feels like we’ve written the story of his contributions to the Broncos and the NFL multiple times already, we decided to talk about his contributions to our personal fandom.
All of us writing for Mile High Report were Broncos fans long before The Sheriff came to town, but all of us still became even more emotionally invested in this team during his time here. Many members on this site probably joined the bandwagon when Manning came to town - a completely legit reason to become a fan of this team.
And it wasn’t just because of the wins and the championships. It was because Manning elevated the situation no matter what it was. His presence anywhere is all-consuming.
Everything he does requires meticulous attention to the details. Every person he encounters - whether it’s coaches or teammates or fans or service members or reporters or opponents - is impacted by the event.
And it is an event.
When the inevitable comparisons come between Peyton Manning and all the greats before and after him - particularly his contemporaries like Tom Brady and Drew Brees - the stats will tell one story.
But it will be only one.
And though his fellow Hall-of-Fame quarterback peers will also have stories of triumph and tribulation, greatness and mediocrity, victory and loss, with Manning those stories are feel more impressive, awe-inspiring or monumental.
Not because of the situation; because of his investment.
Football is in Manning’s blood, so he was destined to be here. But as we know all too well, just because everything is in place to go the right way, doesn’t mean it will. Manning knew that, and we were all reminded of it in Super Bowl 48.
But when you pour your soul into the proper preparation for things to go right, you can will greatness into being because you inspire it in those around you.
To me, Manning’s greatest contribution to football is his intense passion for the game. A passion that willed him to do not just everything he could to win, but everything to help those around him win.
As #PeytonManning is officially named to the @ProFootballHOF tonight, I'm trying to think of my favorite "thing" about him. An impossible task.— Doctor of Words (and tights) (@docllv) February 6, 2021
But I found this photo, and it captures exactly what I love.
Playing or not, being the superstar or not, #Manning loves the game. pic.twitter.com/pvryzhwmlj
Manning’s stats in 18 years of pro football will always speak for themselves. And his four years in Denver brought some of the greatest memories Broncos Country has ever experienced.
Those experiences - the excitement we feel for the game because of one player’s devotion to it - are what separate Manning from so many.
Here is just a slice of what we appreciated the most from Manning - whether it was a play, an attitude, a result or a presence. And we hope you’ll share yours too.
‘Peyton F-ing Manning’
My favorite Peyton Manning moment was one of his last and one I didn’t learn about until weeks after the game. In the final moments of Super Bowl 50 as the offense went out to put the Denver Broncos out in front by two scores to seal the win, the offense chanted Peyton ****ing Manning. That moment showed that despite the tough final season of his career, he had total respect of his teammates. It was a great moment. - Tim Lynch
‘Revenge to the Ravens’
My favorite Peyton Manning moment was the opening game of the 2013 season. Manning absolutely obliterated the Ravens with 7 TD passes. He hit receivers everywhere on the field and showed just how much damage he could do with a superbly gifted and athletic tight end with size. It was my first year doing live fantasy football with a group of guys from my church, and when I was drafting, they were all calling me a Bronco homer and rolling their eyes. Having Manning, Julius Thomas, Wes Welker and DT on my team, I scored something like 243 points on opening day and got to give them all a little “told you so” trash talk. - Sadaraine
‘Manning, the mobile QB’
My favorite off-the-field Manning moment was the parody videos he made with his brother Eli. The funniest was their parody of a 70s cop show. My favorite on-the-field Manning moment was when he ran that naked bootleg to the end zone against Dallas and fooled the entire stadium. - Joe Mahoney
Some ‘words’ for Swearinger
That time he told D.J. Swearinger “F**k You” in a preseason game after he concussed Wes Welker. - Scotty Payne
DJ Swearinger on what Peyton Manning said to him in end zone: "He said 'F me.'"— Mike Klis (@MikeKlis) August 24, 2014
The Sheriff was back
My favorite Peyton Manning moment is the 2012 comeback versus the Chargers. To be honest, it’s the game that reignited my passion for football and for the Broncos after years of not caring. The initial excitement of landing an all-time great QB had begun to fade, and doubt was setting in as the Broncos entered halftime, staring a 2-4 record in the face. Was the greatest free agent acquisition in NFL history going to fizzle?
And then the offense got the ball to start the second half and lit the spark. Suddenly the Broncos were on fire - not just the offense, but the defense too - and the following 30 minutes and 35 unanswered points put the NFL on notice that The Sheriff was back - and just as dangerous as ever. It was the coming out party for the offensive juggernaut that carried the Broncos to success like they hadn’t seen since John Elway hung up his cleats. - Taylor Kothe
Giving Kubiak ‘a signal’
Remember when Peyton Manning informed Gary Kubiak in 2015 that he was ready to play football after sitting out for a few weeks. Kubiak told the story at Manning’s retirement press conference in March 2016:
“There was two weeks left in the regular season and he and I talked. I could tell through his voice, he felt pretty good about what was going on, and he was ready to come back. ...That evening I watched his tape and it looked better than ever. ...As I am watching the film that day, there was something different about the workout. During the workout, he sent me a signal, to the film. ‘Hey, we’re No. 1.’ You can take it that way. I took it as ‘I am ready to play, coach.’ I was heading home that night and I texted him. I said, ‘the workout looked great today, and by the way, I got the signal.’”
I’m not sure I would call him flipping the bird to the cameras for Kubiak’s sake my “favorite” PFM story, but it was one of those quintessential moments in his career. It was like, “This is my last ride, I’m F’ing ready!” Loved it. - Adam Malnatti
Broncos win the ‘Peyton Manning Sweepstakes’
On a personal level, my favorite Peyton moment had to be when he signed. I was ski bumming Big Sky all winter and riding out the Tebow year, and part of that entailed working as a lift operator. I’d wear Broncos gear to work every day, and random tourists would ask me about the fullback Denver had under center on and off for the eight-hour shift. I’d tell them that I thought the Broncos were winning because of their rookie linebacker and carrying Tebow along for the ride.
So when it became clear Elway actually would pursue Peyton Manning it seemed too good to be true. No way he’d actually pick Denver, right? Tennessee was close to home, or the 49ers with their success and defense had to be more appealing. I wouldn’t get my hopes up that a GOAT could come, and I stuck to the belief that Denver didn’t have the proven weaponry on offense or the recent success to draw in an elite QB. Better to protect myself from the dashed hopes.
So when he signed, I Tebowed. - Joe Rowles
Elway - "I'd like to introduce the next quarterback of the Denver #Broncos... Peyton Manning"— MileHighReport (@MileHighReport) March 20, 2012
Beyond the field
As I wrote in a column when PFM retired:
“The magic of Manning goes beyond the gridiron.
“What I will remember about Manning’s time in Denver above all the touchdowns and wins, is the times I teared up reading the latest story about what he did to make someone’s life better.
“Not day. Not week. Not year. Their life.
“There could be many more unheard stories beyond those we already know about.
“That reveals even more about the character and man that is PFM.
“The countless kids who got a phone call, note or visit.
“The smiles he brought to terminal patients who had no earthly reason to do so.
“Whether it was a letter or a short conservation, handshake and photo capped by a “Hi, I’m Peyton Manning.”
“As if they didn’t know who he was. But he made it personal.If it was an in-person meeting with Manning, it was never more than 10 to 15 minutes, but it was enough to give them hope that there is good in this world.Perhaps they even got tickets to a game and the chance to meet their hero when it was finished.
“All of Manning’s on-field accomplishments pale in comparison to what Manning has done and will continue to do to make people’s lives better.” - Ian St. Clair
Thank you, Peyton
I was hoping that by the end of posting everyone else’s favorite moment of Peyton Manning’s career with the Broncos, I’d be able to decide on mine.
My love for the Broncos was solidifying the year Manning was born - 1976. And I think that is symbolic somehow.
Because of Manning, I was inspired to write “an open letter” to our quarterback following the heartbreaking loss in Super Bowl 48, which brought me to Mile High Report and ultimately allowed me the opportunity to cover Super Bowl 50 - the game that turned out to be Manning’s golden swan song.
So I feel like my opportunity to write about my favorite team is indelibly linked to Peyton Manning, and I am fortunate enough to have a bunch of memories with No. 18 because of this blog and because of the Broncos’ success.
My favorite personal one was obviously getting to meet him with my family; my favorite professional one was having a chance to ask him a legit question in his national presser before Super Bowl 50 (which hilariously was also right before Snoop Dogg asked him about a Papa John’s pizza discount that I missed because I was too excited about tweeting my question - lol).
In addition to my admiration for all Manning has done on and off the field, selfishly my favorite thing about him is that I got to be part of his experience as a Bronco.
And I’ll forever be grateful.