Manning: I'll always be a Colt


Peyton Manning held a news conference announcing his retirement a few weeks ago in Denver, but his real speech came in Indianapolis on Friday.

Indianapolis is where five-time MVP Manning made his career. The two-time Super Bowl champion's dominance in the NFL gave prominence to the Hoosier State, and converted a bunch of basketball fans to American football supporters.

Manning's impact was felt off the field as well, most notably with the Peyton Manning Children's Hospital at St. Vincent in Indianapolis.

"On the field. Off the field. I just can't say enough for what he has meant to this franchise. To this city and state," Colts owner Jim Irsay said on Friday before Manning spoke. "You just run out of words thinking about how much 18 means to us."

Irsay, of course, will always have a strong connection with Manning. He was the owner who brought the former Tennessee quarterback on board and let him grow into the legendary player he became.

To honour what Manning meant to Indianapolis, Irsay announced number 18 will become the eighth retired jersey in Colts history, and there will be a statue of the 39-year-old outside Lucas Oil Stadium.

"It's not too often you build statues of someone in their lifetime," Irsay said. "[The statue] will be up there for a very long time. It will be a destination spot for all of our fans.

"And just like Jim Morrison's grave, it will be a destination for people to leave cans of Budweiser or notes for [Manning]."

After Irsay's announcements, Manning took to the stage: "I can't tell you how humbled and honoured I am by those two pieces of news. I really don't know what to say.

"It was my honour and privilege to play for this organization."

When Manning started talking, you started to realize this speech was not for fans of the NFL. This was for the citizens of Indianapolis and the staff of everyone on the Colts.

He took a trip down "memory lane" and just started remembering all of his favourite recollections about playing for the Colts.

As he brought up events of the past, Manning mentioned people by first names and nicknames, potentially leaving viewers to wonder who exactly he was talking about.

But it did not matter, because the speech was not for the viewers. It was for Carol who handled the phone calls at the team facility and every assistant coach who gave him advice. But most importantly -- it was for the fans.

Manning did not get choked up very often, but when he did, it was during his recollections of the fans. It was when he remembered them wearing jerseys in the old RCA Dome. It was when he remembered how loud the dome used to get, to the point where Manning would have to quiet them down when the team was on offense. It was when he remembered the day after winning the Super Bowl in February 2007.

"That sure was a special night," he said. "I can remember the fan celebration. There was nothing quite like it."

He remembered safety Bob Sanders as he "torpedoed some guy in the back" and assistant coach Tom Moore's saying. He remembered taking his commercials to the guys for approval, and knowing that if they laughed, it was good enough for television.

This was Manning's first time back at the Colts complex in four years, and as he drove himself in from the airport, every memory started flooding back into his head. He spent the majority of Friday just re-telling stories of old, and remembering his fond memories of being a Colt.

"I think I kind of speak for all Colts fans when I say that he's ours," Irsay said.

Former Denver Broncos QB Manning agreed: "I'll always be a Colt."