ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — During a Hall of Fame career, Peyton Manning took inspiration from a number of great quarterbacks whose own careers ended with gold jackets and a bust in Canton, Ohio.
In the days since receiving the news that he had been elected as a first-ballot Pro Football Hall of Famer, Manning took the opportunity to call several of those players to express his gratitude.
"I called John Elway," Manning said. "I called Dan Marino, Troy Aikman, Brett Favre — just to kind of let them know [the news] and to say how thankful I am to be on the same team as them and kind of the role and the impact they've had on me, either [from] studying them or talking to me after a game, whatever it may be. I'm honored to be a part of their fraternity."
Elway, Marino and Favre joined Manning — and several others — at the quarterback position on the NFL 100 All-Time Team, which selectedthe best players in league history.
Impressive as those careers may be, though, none of those quarterbacks is Manning's favorite in league history. That honor will likely always belong to Manning's father, Archie. And when theHall of Fame enshrinement arrives late this summer, Archie will play a critical role.
"My dad was my favorite player growing up," Manning said. "He was my favorite quarterback. He's had the greatest football influence on me, even though he never was my coach. Pickup football, knee football in the den, backyard football. He used to go over to our high school because we'd ask him to come watch us throw with my receivers. It was always I had to go ask for his help as opposed to him coming to us, and he was glad to do it. He's my favorite quarterback.
"He's going to present me, which it's only appropriate because of the impact he's had on me."
Manning's calls of appreciation and gratitude continued with his brothers, former coaches, high school friends, members of the athletic training, video and equipment staffs from Denver, Indianapolis and Tennessee and several former teammates.
"[I've] talked to a number of teammates," Manning said. "Can't call all of them, but talked to Von Miller and Emmanuel Sanders and Wes Welker and Demaryius Thomas, Jeff Saturday, Reggie Wayne. [The] list goes on [as to] how many people, but I've enjoyed that. I've enjoyed having a chance to tell them personally. This is something that's more than a text. I haven't called to share with them the news as much as I have to tell them thanks for being a part of it. If you had to do this whole thing alone and celebrate a win by yourself or suffer a disappointing loss, it just wouldn't be worth it. So the fact that I've gotten to do it and share it with so many people — family members, coaches, those type of people, the fans — that's been the best part of it."
Manning said while the routine moments and the relationships were among the most gratifying parts of his Hall of Fame career, he acknowledged that the team's Super Bowl 50 victory was particularly sweet.
"I was kind of a weirdo in the fact that I used to like a second-and-7 5-yard completion that got us to third-and-2, because I put that play in on a Tuesday and we worked on it and got the perfect defense and we were looking just to get five yards and that's what we got," Manning said of his favorite moments. "I used to get really excited about that. I guess the easy answer, you'd say being part of the championship teams. I will say, the fact that I got to be part of a championship team in Indianapolis and Denver, I'm honored to have been a part of both those teams. To have it with two different organizations. I don't wear my Super Bowl rings, but I have the memories of playing for both of those organizations and those particular teams and those particular seasons in my mind and don't have to have a ring to remind me of it. I talk to Von and DeMarcus [Ware] and Emmanuel. We all just kind of know that there's this bond that we have. To be a part of Super Bowl 50 and bring another championship to Denver, I was proud of that, just as I was [in] Indianapolis."
Manning never got the chance to tour the Hall of Fame during his playing career, but he was able to walk through the museum in recent years as individuals like Bill Polian, Tony Dungy and Marvin Harrison were inducted. He was also in attendance at the last enshrinement, as Champ Bailey and Pat Bowlen were enshrined in the Hall.
"I went two years ago, I remember Steve Atwater and I were sitting in the audience watching Champ Bailey get his gold jacket put on," Manning said. "I could just tell how excited Champ was and what that moment meant to him. I'm so happy for Steve that he's getting to go in finally even after a year of the delay due to the pandemic. I feel like I have it in the right perspective.
"I'm honored to be a part of it, and looking forward to joining this new team."