INDIANAPOLIS -- Four years to the day after he said goodbye to the Indianapolis Colts, quarterback Peyton Manning said goodbye to an 18-year NFL Hall of Fame career. But he didn’t walk away without making sure he gave respect to the team that drafted him with the No. 1 overall pick in 1998.
“Thank you to the Indianapolis Colts organization and all the fans across this country,” Manning said. “You can’t fathom how much I enjoyed my 14 years there or the warmth that my family feels for you. I’d be wrong not to mention [owner] Jim Irsay, [former Colts general manager] Bill Polian, some great coaches, support staff and a host of wonderful Colts teammates, many of whom will be lifelong friends.
“When I was drafted by the Colts, Indianapolis was a basketball and a car racing town but it didn’t take long for the Colts to convert the city and state of Indiana into football evangelists."
Manning’s voice cracked and he got emotional early in his news conference that had former teammates Jeff Saturday and Brandon Stokley and former GM Bill Polian in attendance. Manning talked about his entire career, starting with the first pass he completed to running back Marshall Faulk to throwing his first touchdown pass to Marvin Harrison to meeting the late Johnny Unitas in the Colts’ first trip back to Baltimore since relocating to Indianapolis in 1983 to winning Super Bowl XLI.
Manning’s goal was to make the Colts relevant in what was a basketball and auto racing state. He told a story of how his grandfather was looking forward to watching his grandson play while Pat Summerall and John Madden were in the broadcast booth.
“I’d say, ‘We’re only 2-8 right now. We’re playing the 3-7 Bengals. Madden and Summerall don’t broadcast those kinds of games,’” Manning recalled telling his grandfather.
The Colts went 3-13 during Manning’s rookie season, but things changed for the franchise in 1999. They started winning and Manning’s grandfather soon after got to watch a Colts game with Summerall and Madden broadcasting it.
Manning and the Colts beat a Dallas team that featured Hall of Famers Troy Aikman, Emmitt Smith, Michael Irvin and Deion Sanders, 34-24, on Oct. 31, 1999.
“We let the world know that the Colts had arrived,” Manning said. “Make no mistake about it, we were coming and we went on to do some phenomenal things like winning at least 12 games seven years in a row and of course winning Super Bowl XLI. And I was truly honored and proud to be a part of it.”
Manning was named league Most Valuable Player four times and threw for 54,828 yards and 399 touchdowns while with Indianapolis. The Colts went 141-67, went to the playoffs 11 times and to two Super Bowls. The Colts released Manning on March 7, 2012, after he missed the 2011 season with a neck injury.
“I’m going to miss a steak dinner at St. Elmo's in Indianapolis after a win,” Manning said. “I’ll miss figuring out blitzes with Jeff Saturday. Reggie [Wayne] sitting on top of the bench next to me. Perfecting a fake handoff to Edgerrin James.”