By Sam Adams, Comedian/Freelance Writer
“Playing for a new team no doubt there were some butterflies flowing,” Manning said. At age 36, and 208 consecutive regular season starts at quarterback previously made for the Indianapolis Colts, Manning had missed the entire 2011 season recovering from neck surgery. He became available as a free agent in 2012.
“I played in Denver a number of times when I played for the Colts,” Manning said. “I always liked the football atmosphere here. I knew what a great football town Denver was, so that certainly played a role in my choosing to sign with Denver.”
The Broncos beat Pittsburgh in Manning’s debut and went on to finish the 2012 season at 13-3. Manning was named the NFL’s Comeback Player of the Year. The following season Denver finished 13-3 en route to Super Bowl XLVIII, and in 2014 finished with a 12-4 record.
A foot injury limited Manning to nine starts during the 2015 regular season. He came off the bench to provide the Broncos a needed spark in the season finale win against the San Diego Chargers, a win that clinched home-field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs for the 12-4 Broncos. They needed every bit of that advantage in a thrilling 20-18 victory over the New England Patriots in the AFC Championship Game.
It was Manning’s last game played in Denver. “I didn’t know for sure, and I didn’t try to put any finality in my mind whether it would be my last game,” he said. “Obviously it was a special win.” Manning’s 50th victory with the Broncos was against the Carolina Panthers, 24-10 in Super Bowl 50 on February 7, 2016.
In four seasons with the Broncos, Manning broke several franchise passing records, among them passing yards in a season (5,477 in 2013 to set an NFL record), touchdown passes in consecutive games (44), touchdown passes in one game (7 vs. the Baltimore Ravens in 2013) and career completion percentage (.665).
Manning also ranks second on the Broncos’ regular season passing list in career passing yards (17,112) and touchdowns (140). He is the only quarterback in the franchise’s 58-year history to throw for 30 or more touchdowns in one season. Manning did it three times (2012-14), and his 55 touchdown passes in 2013 established an NFL single-season passing record.
During his 18-year NFL career, Manning received the league’s Most Valuable Player award five times, started in four Super Bowls, earned two Super Bowl championship rings and a Super Bowl MVP award. His list of accomplishments (with playoff games) includes 200 career wins, 79,279 passing yards and 579 touchdown passes in 293 games played.
Soon, Manning will be fitted for a gold Pro Football Hall of Fame jacket. Tonight, he enters the Colorado Sports Hall of Fame after a short yet highly productive career wearing Broncos orange. “I’ve always had a lot of orange in my wardrobe playing at the University of Tennessee,” Manning said. “So, it was nice to add some Broncos orange, no doubt about that.”
The most valuable player is the one that makes the most players valuable.