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Peyton Manning wins a well-deserved 'Sportsman of the Year' for 2014-15

There were many good choices for this honor, but Peyton Manning continues to rise above the rest with his continual focus on trying to be the most outstanding quarterback, the most supportive teammate, and the best person he can be. And as we've come to learn, he is a Hall-of-Famer in all three.

Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

How can you say any more about a man and football player for whom so much has been written?

Perhaps we should start with the fact that while this somewhat late announcement may seem ill-timed given the fanbase's impatience with Manning's play right now, instead the timing might actually be perfect.

Peyton Manning is old.

Manning can't throw the deep ball.

His passes are ducks.

The 18-year quarterback "can barely get out of his own way, let alone anyone else's."

That's what the media - and even many fans - have been saying about Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning all season.

Despite doing this with Demaryius Thomas on Sunday Night Football on 4th and 1 against the Lions:

Or this with Emmanuel Sanders against the Chiefs, the Lions, the Raiders and the Browns.


And while Manning has been taking a beating in the press, his commitment to his teammates and coaches, his fans, the sport and humanity in general has never waned.

Despite six tough games in which the offense has sputtered, the five-time NFL MVP continues to fight for the victory, pulling his offense up when needed and always celebrating a defense that has helped keep him and the team at 6-0 rather than what easily could have been 0-6.

Yes, so much has been written about Manning, and yet there is always more to say about a player whose continual sportsmanship, even in the face of defeat, criticism and adversity always invokes two words - Class. Act.

Even Owen Daniels, a free agent who has been working with Manning for just a few months, sees this quality. Defending Manning after the Chiefs game, Daniels pointed out that the quarterback is doing whatever he can for the team.

"I can't imagine how hard it is for him to learn a new offense after he's done his thing for so long," Daniels said. "He's so unselfish about it, a great team player."

Manning's stats last season were remarkable by normal quarterback's standards but sub-par for the future Hall-of-Famer - throwing 39 touchdown passes (third-highest of his career) and 4,727 yards (second-highest of his career). Only Andrew Luck threw more TDs in 2014 with 40.

Nevertheless, the "drop-off" at the end of the 2014 season, culminating with the disheartening playoff loss to the Indianapolis Colts plus inconsistent play in these first six games has left many fans wondering if Manning has what it takes to finish out this season.

It can be lonely at the top when things aren't going well. But as Manning has proved over and over - and over again - he is above his critics.

He continues to display humility, a sense of humor and sincere appreciation for the sport of football, his fans everywhere and humanity in general. He raises millions of dollars in every community where he has been part of its football world, and he always shows compassion to those facing tough times, whether football fans or not.

This remarkable feat is above all else why Manning earns our Sportsman of the Year for 2015.

As this season nears the midway point and the critics are vocal in their complaints, Manning continues to ignore them and concentrate only on what he can control - improving his game, helping his team win and doing what he can to build up communities around him.

Just a month ago, Denver Broncos announced that Manning's "Chattanooga Heroes Fund" to raise money for the families of service members killed in a shooting rampage in July, had reached the $1 million mark.

Before opening day, Manning surprised a woman dying of breast cancer with two tickets to the Ravens game.

Manning's visit with children in the hospital and outreach to a fan's family whose son had been killed in a car accident were just common practices during his summer workouts. On his 39th birthday in March, No. 18 spent the day visiting wounded veterans.

As we have come to expect, despite any of our doubts in this man, Manning's penchant for good will and sportsmanship seems to have no end. Also, he's funny. He'll make a fool of himself and not care.

But what he does care about is winning and being a good person. That's a really fortunate - but often rare - combination.

Ozark Orange's very articulate nomination of Manning this summer said as much:

"I know his 2014 season wasn't everything we'd hoped for, whether it was age, or injury or whatever. And I know that there is some division in the Broncos fan base between those who want him to play forever, and those who are ready to move on.

But he's still the kind of guy who does things to make other players better. Things like spending extra time outside of scheduled team activities with receivers to improve their route running, timing, and communication. Things like leading by example when it comes to work ethic and preparation.

He's seeing lots of changes this season including new coaches, new players, and a new offense. I'm not sure how much he likes those changes, but he's not being a prima donna and complaining about them. Instead, his response is to work harder, and try to get better.

When it comes to off-the-field activities, who are you going to find in the NFL that does more for communities and charities? His charities and foundations have helped and continue to help people in need in Denver, Indianapolis, New Orleans, and probably other places I don't know about. And he takes time and gives of himself to comfort sick and injured people in hospitals and grieving families."

For all the shortcomings we like to nitpick as football fans on Manning's game - many of which the 14-time Pro Bowler would not disagree with - we should be able to agree on one thing.

Broncos Country is damn lucky to have Manning as a Bronco.

All his magic is used up. No more miracle recoveries. A remarkable career reaching its logical end. ...Then he goes out and fools you again.   -Kevin Van Valkenburg, ESPN senior writer, on Peyton Manning.

Recently, ESPN senior writer Kevin Van Valkenburg discussed the "audacity of Manning" to beat teams with his mind even if his body is aging.

"When you watch him wince and grimace after every hit, when you see his passes float and die in the wind, when he tries to roll out and his feet move like he's trudging through ankle-deep snow, the only logical conclusion to draw is that he's done," Van Valeknburg wrote of our SOTY. "All his magic used up. No more miracle recoveries. A remarkable career reaching, sad as the truth might be, its logical end. Then he goes out and fools you again."

Then he goes out and fools you again.

Congratulations on a well-deserved honor, Peyton.

Keep on fooling us...maybe we'll deserve you in the end.

MHR Hall of Fame

Stay tuned for more Class of 2014 Hall of Fame announcements in the days ahead...

Sportspersons of the Year

Pat Bowlen (2013)
Peyton Manning (2014)


Kaptain Kirk (2013)


Class of 2013


Class of 2013
John Elway
Floyd Little
Randy Gradishar
Terrell Davis