The sports gods are not ready for Peyton Manning to retire.
This season Peyton has taken more hits for his less than stellar performance, the injuries, an HGH allegation, and being named the back-up QB. But on Sunday’s AFC Championship game, Peyton became the first quarter back to beat Bill Belichick three times in the post season and lead the Bronco’s to their 2nd Super Bowl in three years.
Super Bowl 50 is more than a Super Bowl; it’s almost certain that this will be the last time we will watch one of the greatest American hero’s play the game for one last time. Two months ago, no one saw this coming! Peyton was benched and just looked like his playing days were done. It was difficult to watch, but the sports gods were not going to let Peyton end his career on the bench. Vegas picked the AFC title game with Manning vs. Brady to be Peyton’s last game. It turned into a writing for a Hollywood script that landed Peyton a ticket to his 4th Super Bowl for what we all assume will be his last game.
The harsh reality is that sports are cruel and the Bronco’s have to face Cam Newton and the Carolina Panther’s.
There no question that Cam Newton and the Panther’s sure are fun to watch. Their energy and their youth are electric and entertaining. With two of my college alumni’s and pro-bowl selections (Tolbert and Norman) in the Panther’s line up I want them to win Super Bowl rings and I want them to win lots of them during their careers, but just not this year. I feel awful saying not this year, but don’t feel awful about saying not against Peyton Manning.
Peyton hasn’t made any formal announcement that this is his last season, but after this year, it would be shocking if he tried to come back next season. And in typical Peyton fashion, he wouldn’t announce it and put the focus on him. To Peyton, it’s about the team and the organization and not about him. But everyone in the locker room, especially on that defense, knows they are playing for Peyton!
In March, Peyton will be 40 years old and the oldest QB to play in the Super Bowl. There are 13 years and 48 days that separated Peyton Manning from Cam Newton; the largest age gap between two starting Super Bowl QB’s in Super Bowl history. Both QB’s are SEC number one draft picks. This is Newton’s first Super Bowl appearance. Peyton is the only QB to take multiple teams to multiple Super Bowls with four different head coaches and the 7th QB to start in four Super Bowls.
Peyton Manning is humble. He is respected and shows more respect to others both on and off the field. In our minds, he is a super hero. To his four year old twins he is just dad. Peyton will have two weeks to take it all in and soak up how special and meaningful this game is to the NFL and to all of Peyton Manning fans. The human side of Peyton is that he is real and these moments can get the best of him on the field.
The emotions of watching a football legend and an even greater person play on borrowed time is a moment we weren’t sure we would witness again. I don’t know how anyone with a heart will get through this game without a box of tissues. Everything about this game will be special. It will be history and win or lose, it will be sad. The irony and pressure of ending a storied career like John Elway only adds to the emotions of the game and how sports have a way of breaking your heart.
I pray to the sports gods that this is PeyBack; that this moment is Peyton Manning’s moment to win one last time.
Thank you, from the bottom of my heart, I truly have enjoyed watching you play quarterback.