Peyton Manning: All-time great, all-time icon

Joe Stuart, Staff Writer

One of my first memories of the National Football League was Super Bowl XLI. I was 10 years old.

In XLI, I watched Peyton Manning win his first ring and the Super Bowl MVP award in a 29-17 Indianapolis Colts victory against the Chicago Bears

It was important because at the time, Peyton Manning was really the only name I knew in professional football, and watching him win the Super Bowl instantly cemented him as the face of football for my childhood.

“Wait, go back,” you might be thinking, “You didn’t have a football experience till you were 10 years old?”

Yes, it’s true. I grew up in a no sports household. Not that they were banned or anything, they just weren’t of much importance to my parents. As far as following professional sports goes, I became obsessed on my own, much to my parent’s confusion.

Yet, despite not seeing him throw touchdowns on any given Sunday, I still knew the name Peyton Manning.

That’s because Manning isn’t just a great quarterback, he’s an icon of the culture.

Manning is the ultimate American representation of what we the people hold on to when we turn to sports to distract us from more unpleasant aspects of life.

He makes football a family affair. He went into the same profession as his dad, and his goofy kid brother followed right behind him. It’s practically a ready for network sitcom that writes itself.

He’s non-threatening. He’s Christian, drinks Budweiser, and isn’t flashy off the field. He always knows what to say to the press, and is the embodiment of every other dude in Middle-America, give or take 500 career passing touchdowns.

Then there’s the commercials. From MasterCard to Gatorade to Nerf, Manning is so entertaining and lovable on TV that you don’t have to watch the NFL to watch Manning. “Chicken parm you taste so good…” Admit it. You sang the jingle in your head as you read that.

Oh and don’t forget the thing that led to all this, his flat-out greatness. He was great since he first put on that University of Tennessee uniform. He was so great that he was the first overall pick in the 1998 NFL draft.

Then he lived up the hype in the NFL and has one of the strongest arguments to be recognized as the greatest of all time. Manning holds NFL records for all-time passing yards, all-time touchdowns and the most wins.

Five MVP awards and 14 Pro-Bowls. Add his college success, and he’s been throwing touchdowns on national TV for longer than I’ve been alive.

All of this led to him being an icon. An icon to the point that even a 10-year old boy in Oregon who knew nothing about football knew who Peyton Manning was.

But when legends die, they die hard. And boy did we see that this season with Peyton Manning. The guy barely played half a season, and was so old and decrepit when he was out there that he looked 79, not 39.

However, in spite the weak stat line, multi-interception games and the fact that his body looked like it was about to collapse after every play, I still somehow saw him as a legend, as the best.

And what better ending for a legend than to walk out on top…sort of. Sure Denver’s win in Super Bowl 50 was thanks to defensive scores, field goals and the run game. But still, as the clock wound down last Sunday, The Sheriff rode off into the sunset the same way as I first knew him, as an icon not just of the game of football, but as an icon of our culture.