Peyton Manning enters Pro Football Hall of Fame with jokes, tears and appreciation: 'God bless football'
His Pro Football Hall of Fame enshrinement speech had a little of everything.
What else would you expect from one of football’s all-time great ambassadors and quarterbacks?
“A legacy is only worthwhile when there is a future to fuel,” said Manning, professing his lifelong love for his sport. “God bless you and God bless football.”
Hall of fame inductees were permitted only 6 to 8 minutes for their speeches to avoid long-winded lectures of the past, and that gave Manning an opportunity for an opening joke.
“I want to give a special thanks to my old rival Ray Lewis for being here,” Manning said. “Ray just finished his speech that he started in 2018.”
Then Manning welcomed Tom Brady, who sat in the VIP section as a guest of his rival quarterback. When Brady appeared on the jumbotron, fans booed and Manning grinned.
“By the time Tom Brady is inducted in his first year of eligibility in the year 2035, he will only have time to post his speech on his Instagram account,” Manning said.
Thanking Archie and the Vols
Archie, a former Ole Miss and NFL quarterback, was his presenter. Manning was brought to tears when he mentioned their relationship.
“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,” Manning said.
Manning is the third Tennessee player inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, following defensive linemen Doug Atkins and Reggie White.
He thanked his “beloved alma mater, the University of Tennessee, (which) helped grow me as a man and refine my skills.”
Manning, of course, was a first-ballot inductee into the Pro Football Hall of Fame because of everything he did after his Vols career. Namely, he earned 14 Pro Bowl selections, an NFL-record five MVP awards and two Super Bowl rings with the Colts and Broncos while rewriting the league’s passing records.
Peyton Manning by the numbers
Manning was surrounded by his jersey numbers in Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium.
Colts fans wore No. 18 in blue and white. Broncos fans wore No. 18 in navy and orange. And there were a few jerseys of half-Colts, half-Broncos colors with a No. 18 for fans who were loyal to Manning, regardless of his team.
And, of course, Tennessee orange was scattered throughout the crowd in Manning’s No. 16 Vols jersey.
Numbers served as a theme for Manning’s enshrinement as one of the best stat-stuffing players in NFL history. He is the 27th modern-era quarterback inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, in addition to pre-World War II quarterbacks who played multiple positions.
Manning thrived in football’s greatest passing eras. He retired in 2015 as the NFL’s all-time passing leader with 71,940 yards and 539 touchdowns. He is now third behind Tom Brady and Drew Brees.
Manning still holds the career record for fourth-quarter comebacks by a quarterback with 43. He also beat all 32 teams en route to posting 201 career wins, including the playoffs.
And Manning's 2013 season with the Broncos is still No. 1 on the NFL’s single-season passing list with 5,477 yards and 55 TD passes.
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