By Terrance Turner
Aug. 8, 2021
This year’s NFL Hall of Fame inductees featured two separate classes — for 2020 and 2021. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the NFL was unable to host induction festivities. But this year, they over-delivered with two sets of inductees. Those honored included such luminaries as Troy Polamalu, Edgerrin James, Bill Cowher, John Lynch, and Calvin Johnson. But one of the most memorable moments belonged to Peyton Manning.
Manning began his speech by mocking the rule limiting speeches to 6-8 minutes. “When I was playing for the Colts, there were just a few seconds on the play clock; we needed the ball snapped quickly. So I yelled ‘Hurry, hurry!’ to my center, Jeff Saturday, and he would immediately snap me the ball. Well, I got to tell you tonight’s speech is an all-time hurry hurry,” Manning began. He jokingly thanked previous inductees “who gave long-winded accepted speeches, forcing us to have a whopping 6 minutes to recap our football careers. I want to give a special thanks to my former rival Ray Lewis for being here tonight. Ray just finished giving his speech that he started in 2018,” Manning said, poking fun at Lewis’ legendary 38 minutes speech.
“Next year, the speeches are probably shrunk to 4 minutes. And speaking of rivals, my good friend Tom Brady is here tonight by the time he is inducted by the time Tom Brady is placed in his first year in eligibility in the year 2035, he’ll only have enough time to post to accepted speech on Instagram Manning joked trying laughs from the crowd including Brady himself.
“To be inducted on the same week as one of my favorite teammates of all time, Edgerrin James, is a thrill. Being reunited with Edgerrin, my old teammates — the great Marvin Harrison Marshall Faulk, our Colts architect Bill Polian, and our Colts leader Tony Dungy — is exceptional. I’m proud to be on the same team again with John Elway and my fellow Denver Bronco alums, Steve Atwater and John Lynch, in this weekend’s induction class. And there’s room for more Colts and Broncos in here, I’m just saying.
We have inherited the history of this sport — even helped create it. but our responsibility cannot stop there. If we simply relive history and don’t ignite the future of the sport, then we’re not doing football justice. each of us has deep roots in this game. Football even helped us carve out a place to belong.
“In my youth, in New Orleans,” Manning said “football carved out a place for my favorite quarterback — my hero, my role model — my dad, Archie Manning, to pass on something he loved to me,” Manning said, choking up. “Dad, there’s no one I would rather have (or be more appropriate) than you to welcome me to this stage. My dad enabled me to play ball with my brothers, Cooper and Eli — the two best brothers a guy could ask for. And they gave my mom plenty of reasons to both beat me up and patch me up. And talk about lucking out, with the most loving mother who could also break down a cover 2 defense as well as any NFL quarterback.
In college, at my beloved alma mater, the University of Tennessee, football gave me a platform to help me grow as a man and refined my skills. Entering the NFL, the game gave me a profession where I could measure myself against the very best and live camaraderie at its deepest level. I always thrived on being coached, and I learned from some of the very best coaches in the business, many of whom are here tonight. Sadly, we have lost two special coaches to me this year: the great Howard Mudd and my good friend Greg Knapp. May they both rest in peace.”
“Over the years, I’ve had the most unbelievable support from family, friends, fans, coaches, teammates and support staff and I just can’t say thank you enough to all of you that have come here tonight to help me celebrate. To Jim Irsay and the Indianapolis Colts organization, my gratitude is off the charts. You drafted me in 1998, and it was a joy and a privilege to represent the horseshoe. And to Pat Bowlen, the Bowlen family and the Denver Broncos organization: you took a chance on me at a crucial moment in my career, and I will never forget it. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.
When I officially retired from football five years ago, whether in-person, on a call or on a handwritten letter, I said all the thank-yous we unfortunately don’t have time to repeat tonight. But trust me, they are as heartfelt now as they were then. To my wife Ashley: there are no right words to express how grateful I am for you. Thank you for your unstoppable love and support. To our children Marshall and Moseley: you came into the world at the exact time that I needed you most. The two of you have already given your mother and me a greater inheritance than we could ever leave you.”
Peyton Manning played quarterback for 18 years in the NFL. He spent 14 seasons with the Indianapolis Colts. With him, they had 11 seasons of 10 wins or more (according to ESPN). Manning led the Colts to Super Bowl XLI in 2007, their first Super Bowl appearance since 1970. They won, beating the Chicago Bears 29-17. Manning was named Super Bowl MVP.
Manning and the Colts again appeared in the Super Bowl in 2010, losing to the New Orleans Saints. He was unable to play during the 2011 season due to neck surgery. Manning was released by the Colts in March 2012.
Manning landed with the Denver Broncos, taking them to the playoffs. He won Comeback Player of the Year for his performance during the 2012 NFL season. Manning had a magical season in 2013. He threw 55 touchdowns, the most ever by a quarterback in a single season. He threw for 5,477 yards — 1 more than the previous record holder, Drew Brees. He led the Broncos to a 52-point game in Week 4 (a franchise record). He set another record by throwing four TDs in nine games, including five TDs in Week 13 (with four to wide receiver Eric Decker). Thanks to Manning, Decker became the first receiver in Broncos history to catch four touchdowns in a game, according to SB Nation.
Manning and the Broncos suffered an embarrassing loss in the Super Bowl that year (losing to the Seattle Seahawks, 43-8). But two years later, they would come roaring back to win it all.
Manning suffered a host of injuries during the 2015 season, including rib and shoulder injuries. In Nov. 2015, he had a partially torn plantar fascia in his left foot. He had difficulty walking, according to ESPN, and had four interceptions in that Sunday’s game.
Despite those injuries, Manning led the Broncos to Super Bowl 50 — which they won. Despite throwing an interception and suffering two fumbles, Manning was saved by an outstanding Denver defense (linebacker Von Miller was named Super Bowl MVP). The Broncos beat the Carolina Panthers 24-10, winning Super Bowl 50. Manning became the first quarterback to win a Super Bowl with two separate teams.