Peyton Manning – One Of Louisiana’s Favorite Sons Despite Being One Of Its Biggest Competitors
As Denver Broncos quarterback and two-time Super Bowl winner Peyton Manning announced his retirement from the NFL (Watch his announcement above), I couldn't help but go back in time.
I thought back to a conversation I once had with a fan of Peyton's father, Archie. As many of us know, Archie Manning spent many years as a New Orleans Saint before finishing his career as a Houston Oiler and a Minnesota Viking.
I was a teenager at the time and Peyton had only been playing a couple of seasons in the NFL. I had been a big football fan since I was 5-years-old, so I had been following Peyton throughout his time at the University of Tennessee and in his first couple of years with the NFL's Indianapolis Colts. And I knew who his father Archie was. But, being born in 1984, I never saw Archie star not only with the Saints, but at Ole Miss, where he became a legend.
In my conversation with this fan, she talked about how much she rooted for Peyton, mainly because she rooted hard for Archie back in his day.
And that's when I really began to understand just how much Archie meant to Louisiana and the rest of the Gulf States area, and the shoes that Peyton had to fill.
In 2013, "SEC Storied" did a documentary on Archie, Peyton and Eli. In it, the film makers showed the life and legacy of Archie and how both Peyton and younger brother, Eli, had to follow in his footsteps.
Peyton was born in New Orleans. He went on to star at Newman High School in the New Orleans area. Many people expected him and wanted him to follow in his father's footsteps and be the starting quarterback at Ole Miss.
But Peyton had other plans, deciding to head up to Tennessee to play for Coach Phil Fulmer. Of course, the Volunteers were not only rivals to Archie's Ole Miss Rebels, but to the LSU Tigers as well.
And that's where he really began to blaze his own path.
Despite dealing with the expectations to be as good as his father, as well as the hurt and upset feelings many football fans shared with his family for not continuing his college career in the Gulf South, Peyton thrived at Tennessee. During his time as a Volunteer, he became an All-American and won numerous individual awards, both on and off the gridiron.
Because of this success, Peyton was taken by the Colts as the number one pick in the 1998 NFL draft. Despite winning multiple MVPs over his first few years, that trip to the Super Bowl continued to elude him.
Until the 2006 season.
It was then that he and the Colts finally got past their biggest playoff rivals, Tom Brady and the New England Patriots. In Super Bowl XLI against the Chicago Bears, Peyton not only led his team to victory, but also won the Super Bowl MVP trophy.
But, there was a dream Super Bowl matchup that nearly came true for many football fans in the Gulf South. The team the Bears beat two weeks before the Super Bowl was the Saints, the team Peyton grew up rooting for. After the Bears stomped the Saints at Soldier Field in the NFL Championship, many Saints and Gulf Coast fans were happy to root for Peyton to win his first Super Bowl.
But three years later that would all change.
Gulf South fans finally got that dream matchup as Drew Brees led the Saints against Peyton and the Colts in Super Bowl XLIV in 2009. And it was a Peyton Manning pick-6 to Tracy Porter that helped seal the deal for the Saints to get their first Super Bowl victory.
Peyton would later go on to play in two more Super Bowls, this time with the Broncos. He went 1-1 with them as well, winning last season's contest over the Carolina Panthers.
But, despite his playing for organizations who rivaled or competed against our area teams over his career, area football fans either respected him or rooted for him. Even during the 2009 Super Bowl, there were still some football fans in the area who had a hard time rooting against him.
There are so many reasons why people here love him and have rooted for him. Whether it's his affable and "aww shucks" personality, his football intellect or his charitable endeavors for Louisiana citizens, take your pick. We appreciate stars who never forget where they came from, and helping deliver relief supplies to survivors of Hurricane Katrina was just one example of how Peyton never forgot his roots.
Over his time, Peyton helped to revolutionize offenses in the NFL and set a new standard for other quarterbacks to follow. His last game being a Super Bowl win reminded me of another Broncos great who led his team to a Super Bowl victory in his final game, current Broncos GM John Elway. Both quarterbacks were very deserving of that honor.
But, as he made his retirement announcement today, I couldn't help but think about what Peyton has meant to this area and how one of Louisiana's favorite sons created his own legacy despite growing up in the shadows of a legend.