The Ending of an Era, Thank you Peyton Manning

So, it’s official.  Peyton Manning is no longer the quarterback for the Indianapolis Colts.  This is a sad day in this city.  Many of us that are True Blue fans have watched this man take a franchise that was down in the dumps and return it to the glory it once had while in Baltimore.  Peyton is more than just a football player to many people.  He is a philanthropist, fantastic citizen and a great human being.  He gave so much of his off the field time to others and never expected much in return.

The only thing that I can think of that he may have wanted in return is our unwavering support of him and his team.  Mr. Manning has done more for this city than just give us a winning football team that we can be proud of and cheer for every Sunday.  He has changed so much more than people outside of this great state are aware of or possibly even care about.

Before Peyton arrived in 1998, this was solely a basketball state.  Names like Bobby Knight, Reggie Miller, Rik Smits and others were the sports names that everyone knew.  Jeff George, Jack Trudaeu, Ken Dilger, and Zack Crockett were names that people may have known, but did not really care about.  If it didn’t involve a round orange ball, it didn’t matter.

Once the Colts drafted Peyton out of Tennessee things began to change.  For the first time in a long time, they had drafted someone that could possibly return this team to the promiseland and put them back on the map.  After his first lackluster season, many thought that they had yet drafted another first round bust.  When season two came along, people were proven wrong.  Peyton took the team to a 13-3 record.  The biggest turnaround in Colts history.  If you watch or have watched football you know the rest of the story.  During this time period of dominance in the NFL, Peyton helped transform this state into not only a basketball state but a football state as well.

During these past 14 years football programs have turned themselves around.  Youth football leagues have popped up all over.  High school football in the state of Indiana became the place to be on a Friday night.  Did Peyton do this all by himself?  No.  Did he have a hand in it?  You betcha.

Peyton Manning became the player that everyone knew.  Either through his play on the field or through the goofy ads on TV, or the commercial with his brother Eli walking through the halls at ESPN.  Manning had money, love of a city, love of his family and almost everything a man could ask for, but there was one thing he was still pursuing.  It wasn’t a record or more money, but to get a monkey of his back that he could not win the big games.

In 2006, he did just that by bringing the first Vince Lombardi trophy to Indianapolis.  A few years later, he had another shot but came up short.  So, looking back, Peyton has done the following, helped change the way sports are looked at in an entire state, played amazing football that every True Blue fan can be proud to say they watched, played in two Super Bowls and brought one trophy home with him.  I would say that is one heck of a career.  But after today’s press conference, he told us all he isn’t finished yet.

Yes, it’s going to be hard to see Peyton in another teams jersey, but those of us that love the man will be cheering him on, when he isn’t playing against the Colts of course.  Those of us that do actually care about him as a human being will be watching and hoping that he succeeds whereever he lands.  My only hope is that he stays true to his words that he spoke today.  He will always remain a Colt and will always return to this great city.

Peyton gave us so much to cheer about and today, among the sadness and pain of knowing that we will no longer watch #18 throw a 50 yard pass downfield to a streaking wide open receiver as a member of the Indianapolis Colts, he opened the door for the future to come in.  Many people already know what Jim Irsay and the rest of the front office are going to do come April, and I’m sure that many of us fans of this team will support Andrew Luck as he comes in and does his best to recreate what Peyton did here and I’m sure we will welcome him to our city with open arms.  Yes, many of us will compare him to Peyton.  Yes it’s will be unfair to do so, but the day that he steps out of Peyton’s shadow will be the day that we all take a sigh of relief and thank Mr. Irsay for another great QB selection.

Peyton said something today at the press conference that really stuck with me.  At the end, he took a moment and thanked all the fans for everything.  From the bottom of his heart he took the time to thank us for what we gave him.  I want to take this time to thank Peyton Manning from the bottom of my heart for what he did for us, this city and this state.  Godspeed on your journey Mr. Manning.  You will be missed but never forgotten.

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