Peyton Manning Enshrinement Speech

PEYTON MANNING: Thank you very much. Thank you, all, very much. When I was playing for the Colts, and there were just a few seconds on the play clock, and we needed the ball snapped quickly, I would yell "Hurry, hurry" to my center, Jeff Saturday, and he would immediately snap me the ball.

Well, I got to tell ya, there you go, tonight's speech is an all‑time hurry, hurry. The 2021 induction class wants to thank those previous inductees who gave long‑winded acceptance speeches, forcing us to have a whopping six minutes to recap our football careers.

(Laughter.)

I want to give a special thanks to my old rival Ray Lewis for being here tonight. Ray just finished giving his speech that he started in 2018.

(Laughter and applause.)

Next year acceptance speeches will probably shrink to four minutes. And speaking of rivals, my good friend Tom Brady is here tonight. By the time he is inducted –  

(Cheers.)

By the time Tom Brady is inducted in his first year of eligibility in the year of 2035, he will only have time to post his acceptance speech on his Instagram account.

The legendary John Madden says that the Hall of Fame busts whisper to each other at night. And it's actually true. My son, Marshall, and I have heard it. But I also think that they run plays at night. They scrimmage. They throw a little seven-on-seven.

The other night I had a dream that I was in one of those scrimmages. The other team's coaches were Vince Lombardi and Paul Brown. My coaches, Bill Cowher and Jimmy Johnson. That's right, a Cowboy and a Steeler working together. Only in Canton, Ohio.

We are on the 50‑yard line with only three seconds left in the game. Coach Cowher called a running play. I said, “Coach, I'm going to have to audible. Omaha!”

I called a pass play. My bust faked a handoff to Barry Sanders. I threw a 20‑yard break‑in route to Michael Irvin right as Deacon Jones and Ray Nitschke hit me at the same time. Irvin, as he was getting tackled by Ronnie Lott, then lateraled to Steve Largent, who was in a footrace down the sideline with Darrell Green and Lem Barney. The savvy Largent, knowing he couldn't win a footrace with Darrell Green, then lateraled back to Lance Alworth, who dove into the end zone for the game‑winning score. Now, yesterday, it was just a dream, but tonight it's reality.

(Cheers and applause.)

Anyway, I just think it's pretty cool to say you're on the same team as Johnny Unitas and "Slingin’" Sammy Baugh. I am honored to be a member of his elite class and a teammate of Drew's, Coach Flores, John, Calvin, Alan and Charles. To be inducted on the same weekend with one of my favorite teammates of all time, Edgerrin James, is a thrill.

(Cheers.)

Being reunited with Edgerrin; my old teammates, the great Marvin Harrison, Marshall Faulk; our Colts architect, Bill Polian; our coach, leader Tony Dungy is really something special. And I'm proud to be on the same team again with John Elway and to join fellow Denver Bronco alums Steve Atwater and John Lynch in this weekend's induction class.

(Cheers.)

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 and in Newman School, 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.

(Cheers.)

Dad, there is no one I would rather have or be more appropriate than you to welcome me to the stage.

My dad enabled me to play ball with my brothers Cooper and Eli, the two best brothers a guy could ask for. And it gave my mom plenty of reasons to both beef me up and patch me up. You talk about lucking out with the most loving mother who could also break down a cover two defense as well as any NFL quarterback.

(Cheers.)

In college, at my beloved alma mater, the University of Tennessee, football gave me a platform to help me grow as a man and refine 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.

(Applause.)

After my playing career, I hung a whistle around my neck, and I've coached my son's flag football team for the past two years. Now, I'm not sure I'm a very good coach, but hopefully that role will enable me to make a hands‑on contribution to the future of our sport.

Over the years, I've had the most unbelievable support from family, friends, fans, coaches, teammates and support staffs, 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 in a handwritten letter, I said all the thank yous that 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. And to our children, Marshall and Mosley: You came into the world at the exact time that I needed you the most. The two of you have already given your mother and me a greater inheritance than we could ever leave you.

If football has become my home, the people of the great states of Louisiana, Tennessee, Indiana and Colorado have become my extended family. And as everyone knows, you can never really leave family behind.

I never expected to stand on this stage tonight. If it weren't for those busts and the memories of forever loyal fans, tonight's details would blur and cheers would fade. However, our hearts will cradle the memories forever.

Throughout our lives as players, coaches, staffs and fans, we've become essential to the sports landscape. I don't know about you, but I'm not done with this game. I never will be. I'm committed to ensuring its future, and I hope you will join me in that commitment.

As members of this honored class, we have a responsibility to make our game stronger, from the corner playground to the most celebrated stadiums.

During the past few years, the game of football has been challenged by an explosion of sports and entertainment options, safety concerns, erupting social justice issues and a worldwide pandemic. Displaced fans have taken on an entirely new meaning, as our stadiums have been shut down and fans shut out.

We certainly shouldn't walk away now. When we leave this stage tonight, it is no longer about us. It is about cultivating the game that has given so much to us. It's about nurturing football to live and thrive another day, another year, decade and another generation.

It's about guaranteeing that kids everywhere can learn, bond, grow and have fun with every flag pulled, every tackle made, every pass thrown, every run, block, sack and touchdown scored.

The audience here tonight is made up of diehard fans who feel football deep in your bones. Now, we may have ignited the fire, but you, you have fanned the flames. Inevitably, those flames will be whipped by the winds of change, but they don't need to smolder.

The future of this game is ours to shape. We just need to take tomorrow on our shoulders as readily as we donned our pads before each game. Let this moment become a cherished memory, and then remember: A legacy is only worthwhile when there is a future to fuel.

God bless you, and God bless football.

(Cheers and applause.)



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