The emotion behind the words was obvious.
Even unflappable Peyton Manning choked up as he said goodbye to his comfort zone — the job of quarterback and leader of the Indianapolis Colts. “I’ll always be a Colt. I always will be. That’ll never change,” Manning declared.
His promise is understandable. Despite being released Wednesday by the NFL franchise that he helped regain legitimacy, Manning leaves with great memories. He thanked everyone for those moments through 14 seasons, and he deserves the same in return. The Indianapolis branch of his Memory Lane is long and scenic — the Super Bowl championship, four Most Valuable Player Awards, a dogged work ethic exhibited through 227 consecutive starts, two AFC championships, 150 victories, and eight division titles.
How could we, or Peyton himself, forget all that occurred when he wore No. 18 from 1998 through 2010?
Perhaps nobody can. Notice, though, that Memory Lane looked like an I-70 road construction project in 2011.
Manning and the rest of Indiana probably will want to forget that season, the ignominious end of his otherwise illustrious era. That season taught us all that, when it comes to our careers, “times change,” as Manning also said during his farewell news conference Wednesday.
He left the Colts because, simply, his health — with a healing neck injury and 35 years of wear and tear — is too uncertain for the Colts to pay him a guaranteed $28 million bonus that would have been due today. The club had no idea how much, how well or how long he could play on a start-from-scratch roster that will soon include his heir apparent, top draft pick Andrew Luck. Manning said he had no idea which team would snatch him up as a free agent, but the presumption is that some flexible franchise will see him as a final piece of their Super Bowl puzzle.
Peyton Manning in a Seahawks, Redskins or Dolphins uniform? Unimaginable.
And yet, it’s going to happen. Manning has only known one full-time job, as QB of the Colts, but now he and his employer are parting ways and heading into “uncharted waters” of life. “Times change,” indeed.
That said, I frankly hope that Peyton’s best days are ahead of him, especially once his playing days end. I’m sure Isidore Newman Prep School in New Orleans, and the University of Tennessee still hold special places in his heart. Class and team reunions probably satisfy any of his desires for reminiscing. With time, the same will be true of his glory days with the Colts. The 2007 championship squad will reunite in 2017, 2027, 2032 and so on. Fans will cheer, maybe shed a tear, and tell the youngsters in the crowd, “You should’ve seen Peyton Manning play.”
But Peyton is 35 years old. Just 35 years old. Though he may “always be a Colt,” a Tennessee Volunteer, an Isidore Newman Greenie (yup, that’s their nickname), he shouldn’t have to show off his NFL war wounds or live with, as Bruce Springsteen once put it, “boring stories of glory days.”
The man who coached Manning to the Super Bowl, Tony Dungy, certainly etched “a legacy” with the Colts, too. He set an incredible example of solid character and strong, quiet leadership that earned the respect of his players, opponents and anyone else watching. Yet Dungy’s most important work, as an active advocate for responsible fatherhood, came after he’d retired from coaching.
A week ago, I crossed paths with a retired coach and friend. He’d just gotten a chance to reunite with a trio of players from the most high-profile seasons of his coaching career. It sounded as if they had a blast, joking around, catching up and remembering old times. But it wasn’t their athletic heroics that dominated his thoughts. Instead, he said, “Mark, what impressed me most about them is the kind of men they’ve become. They’re good family men — good husbands, good fathers.”
Peyton Manning might win another Super Bowl with some other team. Or he might fade into the NFL sunset on his way to the Hall of Fame. Maybe he’ll coach. Maybe he won’t.
Let’s hope he’s making other plans, too, and that even better times lie ahead for him, and that he follows the high road wherever life takes him.
Mark Bennett can be reached at (812) 231-4377 or email@example.com.
The emotion behind the words was obvious.
- Mark Bennett B-Sides
MARK BENNETT: Time for surf, sand and a good book
I can read a book on the beach. Until I start sweating. Then it feels like exercise, minus the fitness perks. My brain shifts into neutral as the waves roll in, blissfully washing away footprints in the sand and my inclination to think. Better put, I enjoy starting a book on the beach, and finishing it later, elsewhere.
Police: Mom, son conspire to kill witness
The Clay County Sheriff’s Department seems to have prevented what it believes was a mother-and-son conspiracy to commit murder.
Banks of the Wabash Festival is more than just yearly entertainment
Pioneers think counterintuitively. Where others see widespread apathy, they focus on the possibility for progress. In a way, the 2013 Year of the River celebration began in the 1970s.
MARK BENNETT: After running for 28 hours straight, what’s another 5 miles?
Some phrases can only be uttered by a few people, or none at all.
MARK BENNETT: Glitches show limitations of high-stakes testing concept
The dog ate my homework. That age-old excuse — based on a shockingly unforeseen complication — rarely works for a kid who didn’t finish yesterday’s math assignment. Yet, in a role reversal, Indiana school children, along with their teachers and administrators, are left to accept an explanation for a disruption best described as the mother of all ironies.
MARK BENNETT: One step at a time to save lives
Remember that name.
MARK BENNETT: Sometimes, the mere posing of questions is significant
The era seems quaint now, almost like a fable. When people left their house doors unlocked. When the sight of a police officer in a school meant it was Career Day.
MARK BENNETT: New reality steers Nashville singer to Crossroads for Historical Society concert
People pass through the Crossroads of America for lots of reasons.
Business trips. College campus events. Federal prison sentences. Visits with relatives. Gas pitstops.
Or maybe a career change and a twist of fate.
Ty Brown makes his first stop in downtown Terre Haute as the headliner of a multi-band Sweet Sensations Country Jam concert May 4 in the Ohio Building — a fundraiser for the Vigo County Historical Society.
MARK BENNETT: Terre Haute barber ‘sharpens up’ customers for 50 years
People streamed through this section of downtown Terre Haute in those days.
“You could hardly walk by here,” John Hochhalter said, pointing toward the sidewalk outside the window.
The bustle has faded since the early 1960s. Hochhalter remains. He’s still barbering in the same shop he and late business partner Kenny Thomas opened a half-century ago this week.
MARK BENNETT: Memories, emotions rush back with announcement of new pope
I saw a pope once.Read quickly, that sentence sounds too casual, almost as if we’d crossed paths at Home Depot. Say it slowly, though, and the significance comes through.
MARK BENNETT: Reflections of grid success stir with Brent Anderson’s passing
A few hundred miles away, and nearly 40 years gone by, a special game ball still occupies a fond place in Rudy Bohinc’s memories.
Lent meets ‘The Bucket List’ in Terre Haute
Initially, the concept might conjure images of Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman jumping out of an airplane or sitting atop the Pyramids. Instead, think “Lent Meets ‘The Bucket List’ in Terre Haute.”
MARK BENNETT: Never truer: Knowledge vital to narrowing ‘skills gap’
The pillar at the gates of Faber College in the movie “Animal House” bore a wise motto, despite its tongue-in-cheek intent …
MARK BENNETT: Great-niece to re-enact Paul Dresser’s musical legacy in Terre Haute show
People can be forgotten. Their lives end, time passes and memories fade.
Often, the only keepers of their legacies are family and friends, who tell and retell their stories, generation to generation.
For Paul Dresser, his fame burned strong enough as a turn-of-the-century, million-seller songwriter to preserve bits of his public notoriety.
MARK BENNETT: An Olympic takedown
Imagine an iconic image of American sports history erased.
MARK BENNETT: Indiana’s ‘skills gap’
A problem lasting decades ceases to be a “problem.” By then, the situation becomes “part of the culture.”
MARK BENNETT: America’s best quality of life? Indiana must address flaws, set priorities
Just as the job interview seems smooth, the interviewer drops the question.
“So, where do you see yourself in five years?”
MARK BENNETT: Pondering what is meant by ‘quality of life’ to Hoosiers
Sometimes it’s sincere. Other times, it’s sarcasm.
You cross paths with a friend, ask how they’re doing, and they say, “Ah, just livin’ the dream.”
Livin’ the dream. What exactly does that involve? Can it be defined?
MARK BENNETT: By whatever name, stomach virus still a sick story
It’s the ugly side of the cold-and-flu season.
MARK BENNETT: Living on the banks
We are the Wabash.
MARK BENNETT: Rising young producer lands spot in Sundance Film Festival
When a project clicks, the moment is clear.
MARK BENNETT: Remember the 20 children lost
Their names were listed on the screen at the front of the church on Sunday.
Our pastor asked us to choose one and pray for their family. I selected Noah Pozner, just by chance.
MARK BENNETT: Tasting panel to help find Champagne Velvet’s ‘million-dollar flavor’
Rounding up enough volunteers to serve on a committee can be a struggle.
MARK BENNETT: Thanksgiving’s feast can be defined by either the presence of family or the family’s quest for presents
The best gift deals will be gone by 12:01 a.m. Nov. 23.
MARK BENNETT: Salvation Army touches many lives
Sometimes, the unexpected happens.
MARK BENNETT: Election excellence: 30 out of 32 is pretty darn good
Detroit car makers unveil the latest Mustangs and Corvettes on Wabash Avenue.
MARK BENNETT: Climbing the rungs of Lincoln’s Ladder
One crucial quality helped Abraham Lincoln become America’s greatest president.
Courage? Political savvy? Wisdom? Moral character?
MARK BENNETT: Drop the needle
Over time, excellence and nostalgia inappropriately merge in our minds.
No matter the age, voting’s a part of American fabric
The electoral karma seemed, well, unfair.
MARK BENNETT: A moment on the brink
Ominous, but distant.
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