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'No one deserves it more': Archie, Eli Manning reflect on Peyton's football journey

CANTON, Ohio — There was really no other way to begin Peyton Manning's Hall of Fame induction.

When they rolled the video in which his dad, Archie Manning, presented him for enshrinement, it began with a familiar clip.

While images of Manning raising the Lombardi Trophy for the Colts in the Miami rain and with the Broncos in Santa Clara have become staples of nearly any video package featuring the Hall of Famer, a soundbite of Manning as a child may be the most played clip of his career.

"Who's your favorite football player?" a reporter asks a young Manning.

"My dad," a toddler-aged Manning answers.

That remains true 40 years later, and on Sunday in Canton, Ohio, Archie presented his son with pro football's highest honor. Archie and Peyton pulled the gold cloth covering off Manning's bronze bust together, and the Mannings enjoyed the moment as a family.

Peyton's parents, Archie and Olivia; brothers, Cooper and Eli; wife, Ashley; and children Marshall and Mosley joined him to celebrate the occasion. And it was clear from Manning's apparent emotion that having his family in attendance meant a great deal.

"Each of us has deep roots in this game," Manning said in his speech. "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. Dad, there is no one I would rather have or be more appropriate than you to welcome me to this 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-2 defense as well as any NFL quarterback."

Manning continued, later in the speech, by thanking his immediate family.

"To my wife, Ashley, there are no right words to express how grateful I am for you," Manning said. "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 most. The two of you have already given your mother and me a greater inheritance than we could ever leave you."

The rest of Manning's family was equally grateful to share the weekend with Peyton.

"Well, it's obviously just very exciting for Peyton," Eli told "No one deserves it more than he [does]. Unbelievable NFL career. Did it all the right way. Loved the game. Is a historian for the game. And changed the way quarterbacking is played and having the offensive coordinator kind of on the field with his knowledge. Excited for him. I know he's had a great week and been everywhere. I'm just excited to celebrate with him tonight."

Eli admitted that their father joining Peyton on stage felt right for the family.

"Yeah, definitely," Eli said. "My dad has obviously been a huge impact on both of our lives. With Peyton, he was always just there to support. He didn't force football upon us. We chose it, we loved it. But he was there just to lead us along the way and answer any questions and help out in any way."

Archie echoed Eli's sentiment that he and Olivia's goal was never to raise Hall of Fame quarterbacks. It was simply a byproduct of a life that was steeped in football from Archie's career with the Saints.

"Olivia and I have been married 50 years," Archie told "We didn't try to raise football players. We just tried to raise kids, which is not always easy in New Orleans, Louisiana. But we were blessed three healthy boys and Peyton was actually a pretty easy child to raise. He kind of did what you'd ask him to do, he was a good student. He liked football. I was playing ball, and they liked to hang around and be there. We really count our blessings. We've been very blessed."

Archie said he "never" expected at that point to be standing in the center of the football world presenting his son for enshrinement.

"No, no, never," Archie said of having Hall of Fame expectations. "I never did. And he never talked about it. He felt fortunate to get to play in high school, and play in college and his pro experience was great. … For our family, this means so much."

Added Eli: "This was never the goal. It was just to enjoy playing football, enjoy the competitiveness, enjoy being part of a team. That's where it all started. [Peyton] had such an unbelievable career and has enjoyed every moment of it. Made so many great friends and different players and coaches that are here to celebrate this and kind of send him off on his football career."

Peyton noted earlier in the weekend that it was "a great honor" to have his dad help him slip on the gold jacket on Friday night, and Archie seemed humbled to be involved in the moment.

"That was just a great thrill," Archie said. "Just never envisioned I'd have the opportunity to do that.

"… Just the whole setting here in Canton — the whole experience — to see it and be able to put that on Peyton, I'll cherish that moment forever."

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