Peyton Manning has shattered numerous records. He’s led two different teams to four Super Bowls, each time under a different head coach, and won two of them. Even at the the ripe age of 40 Manning displays extraordinary athletic talent and agility, in addition to his brilliance as a playmaker. Will The Sheriff turn in his badge for good? I have no idea. I’m not going to make any unfounded predictions about that or tell you what I think he should do, as if I know what’s best for him. Sports writers and pundits are going crazy right now analyzing his athletic accomplishments, speculating about his retirement and comparing his career to other quarterbacks. That’s all well and good, but I want to underscore what kind of an impact he’s made in the NFL and on people all over America. What really matters to me is the legacy he’ll leave behind as a result of his conduct both on and off the field. 

      True leaders win with humility by respecting their opponents and giving credit to their teammates. They lose with dignity and grace when they refrain from sulking, conceal their frustration when talking to the press, and sincerely congratulate their opponents. A person of real success has the same attitude toward everyone they come in contact with; doesn’t matter if it’s the janitor who cleans the bathrooms or the CEO who writes their paychecks. They do everything they can to conduct themselves with integrity and set a good example for others. The type of individual I’m talking about is always humble, with the self esteem to avoid bragging because he knows his accomplishments will speak for themselves. They are more concerned about lifting up those around them, rather than stroking their own ego. Throughout his career Peyton Manning has consistently espoused these qualities and conducted himself with nothing but class, uncommon in the world of celebrities. 

        There’s no shortage of sleaze in politics or the NFL. Peyton brings class to sports; much the same way statesmen like Ted Cruz, Mike Lee, etc. bring candor and integrity to politics. As a side note, Peyton has donated to Jeb Bush’s campaign, which is not the best choice for a candidate (in my opinion), but at least he’s politically smart enough to choose the right party. 

      Peyton Manning stands out in a league shrouded by show-boating, dabbing, flashy superstars who have big egos, drug users, domestic abusers, etc. (most of these guys are not hardened criminals, it’s just the really bad apples that stand out). Peyton has a good track record of personally responding to fan mail, making sure they know he appreciates them. The Colts and Broncos are much better teams today as a result of his hard work. I wouldn’t mind seeing more stories about guys like Peyton Manning and Anquan Bouldin who are excellent role models for America’s youth, and not as much wall to wall coverage on the scandals of less admirable figures such as Ray Rice and Lamar Odom. That’s partially why I wrote this. But that’s just the nature of the beast, negativity sells headlines. 

          

      After games Peyton always puts on a suit and respectfully answers questions from reporters. If you haven’t seen Cam Newton’s disgraceful post game press conference from Sunday night, here it is: Cam Newton SB Press Conference. As you can see, his behavior was very childish and unprofessional. I think he lost a tremendous amount of respect from millions of football fans, many of his own fans among them. Fortunately for the Carolina Panthers their Linebacker Luke Kuechly suited up and gave a respectable post game press conference, sort of cleaning up the mess left by his quarterback. 

      I’m not much of a sports fan, and only started rooting for the Broncos a few years ago because my cousins are diehard Peyton fans. I’ve been casually following them and Peyton has really grown on me. I think Sunday night was the only NFL game I watched all season, but I really enjoyed it. It was a very exciting game. Both teams played exceptionally well, especially the defenses. Super Bowl 50 Game Highlights That game was perfect in the sense that Peyton Manning earned the victory he has worked so hard for, and the Broncs (particularly Von Miller) served Cam Newton the large slice of humble pie that he needed. 

      There’s no denying Cam is a great athlete. He’s an accomplished young player with a potentially long and promising career ahead of him. But he’s been somewhat arrogant and cocky. Hopefully after the dust settles and some time passes he’ll mature and realize how unsuitable his conduct was for someone in his position. A little bit of humility goes a long way. I think Cam’s future will be a little brighter if he recognizes his flaws and makes some character changes. Jim Rome tweeted, “Cam’s presser was weak. If you’re going to celebrate when you win, you’ve got to face the music when you lose.” I could not agree more. 

      Who knows, maybe that press conference walkout was just a slip up. “Cam could not have been nicer to me. He was extremely humble. He congratulated me, wished me the best. I told him congratulations on his outstanding season and what a great future he has ahead of him. He’ll be back in that game, I can promise you. I have been on that side of it. It is tough. It’s not an easy pill to swallow. He was very nice to me, and I really appreciated that,” Peyton Manning said yesterday during an appearance on The Today Show.

       The point I’m trying to make is that when it’s all said and done, as the marks are being chiseled into your gravestone, it won’t matter how many rings are on your hand. Neither will the number of TD passes you’ve completed. What will be important is how you made a difference in the lives of those who crossed your path, the kind of example you set for others and whether or not the world around you will be better off in some ways (large or small) as a result of your time here. That’s why I have such strong admiration for Peyton Manning. Here’s what he had to say when asked about the legacy he wants to leave behind. Peyton Gets Emotional When Asked About Legacy

       Russell Wilson, also a man of great integrity, published a heartwarming tribute to Peyton yesterday. The Seattle Seahawks quarterback spends much of his spare time running football camps for kids and doing charity work. About 8 months ago Wilson was at an airport and saw an American Soldier named Kane Bernas carrying his bag to coach and quickly upgraded Kane’s seat to first class. Anyway, here’s what Russell had to say about Peyton: “From all the wins, to the few tough losses. From the 71,000 yards, to all the touchdowns, to the few interceptions. From all the meetings, to all the hard practices, to all the film, to all the blood, sweat and tears. From all the Pro Bowls, to the handful of MVPs, to the two Lombardi trophies. From all the teammates, to all the opponents, to all the fans. From the blue and white, to the blue and orange …. Sheriff, If this is it, there’s one moment I won’t forget. 10th grade. Louisiana. At your quarterback camp. You inspired the kid in the green shirt. You inspired me to work hard. To be disciplined. To be respectful. To take notes.You inspired me to love the process. To love the sweat. To love the tears. But most of all … You inspired me to love the game. Thanks, Peyton. If this is it, Thanks.”

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Written By Jason O’Day,  Founder and Operations Manager of American Exceptionalism