Peyton Manning is a living legend. A two-time Super Bowl Champion, five-time MVP, 14-time Pro Bowler, and guaranteed Hall of Famer – Peyton is arguably the greatest quarterback of all time, while manning a physique so unimpressive that former teammates dubbed him the fourth most athletic Manning (after Archie, Eli, Cooper, and Olivia). Peyton has a bad foot, a messed up neck, a nerveless arm and a drive to succeed so relentless that he lasted his lucky number of years in the league: 18.
A multimillionaire professional athlete still doing D1 athlete workouts at 34 years old and pushing himself so far in returns from injury that disbelievers have been alleging and investigating the use of PEDs, Peyton has put in more work than Rihanna’s hit single. This is a guy who, as a high school senior, sat in the weight room reading every piece of hate mail he had been sent for not declaring to his father’s alma mater Ole Miss, shrugged them off, and continued to work out.
This is a young man who, as a college junior ready for the NFL Draft, graduated with the highest GPA in his major and studied tape of Letterman before being hosted on the “Late Show with David Letterman”. Peyton Manning’s work ethic allowed him to break through seemingly impenetrable barriers while setting a new bar for dedication. Peyton, or as he is more fittingly known, The Sheriff, merited the respect of rivals like Bill Belichick and Tom Brady, is subject of books on preparation, and was an example that purportedly pushed even the maniacal Kobe Bryant to work harder. It’s all culminated in a final Super Bowl win at 39 years old, a retirement, and now – this groundbreaking look at his 15 most awe-inspiring instances of work ethic.
15 15. Working For That First Penny
Rahim Moore is a free agent safety who spent time around Peyton Manning as a sophomore player on the Broncos in 2012. It’s widely known that Peyton works hard, but coming off of four surgical procedures throughout 2011 and joining a new club for the first time in his professional career – Rahim got floor-seats to a heretofore unprecedented show of work ethic. What Rahim saw was an old millionaire with a guaranteed starting spot working harder than the practice squad or scout team – guys who hadn’t even earned a check yet.
14 14. The 40-Year-Old High Schooler
A lot of people, when looking back on high school, can remember good times and shudder at the thought of less-good times, inevitably cringing at their then-immature selves. Not Peyton Manning. Peyton Manning has had the mind of a 40-year-old since he was five. Apparently a coach used to tell Peyton’s peewee baseball team that they tied in each of their losses, leading Peyton to complain to his dad that ‘the coach must think we’re stupid.’
13 13. The Ice Tub Photo
The ice tub photo went, understandably, viral. It’s the ancient mariner himself, Sheriff Peyton Manning, seated with his foot in an ice tub, a tablet in his hands, and his crown: a helmet, atop his head. While it might look a little ridiculous and over-the-top, as with most examples of Peyton’s preparation – it makes complete sense in context. Peyton, still dealing with plantar fasciitis in his foot, was asked to rehab while the rest of the team hit the practice field.
12 12. Lil Wayne's Uncle's Story
Lil Wayne is a famous rapper who likes himself some Peyton Manning (Weezy on Peyton: “He is special. He is one of a kind.”). Lil Wayne’s posse included an older roadie who Weezy considered an uncle, and this roadie happened to be a prisoner on a work-release program who used to have to clean the field of the high school attended by Cooper, Eli, and Peyton Manning.
11 11. Team Leader With a Very Big Team (Who Need Some Very Big Rings)
Peyton Manning spent 14 years with the Indianapolis Colts before taking 2011 off to deal with his neck and deciding to join the Broncos in 2012. We will soon spend more time discussing the more traditional examples of work ethic and preparation that went into his development at Tennessee or his rehabilitation and eventual return to the sport for the Broncos, but I want to take a moment to consider just how all-encompassing his preparation and leadership have been.
10 10. Two-Minute Drills
This example of unrelenting work ethic comes courtesy of Colts guard and teammate Ryan Lilja who remembers (a mid-30s) Peyton’s method of preparation for two-minute drills. Two-minute drills are often the ultimate test of a quarterback’s readiness as they rush their team downfield making snap decisions with rare chances to catch their breath between calling plays. Since so much of a two-minute drill is spent jogging, Peyton would hop on the treadmill to go through the entire drill’s portfolio of play-calls and gesticulations.
9 9. By Any Means Necessary: Getting Ahead
Sometimes dedication to your craft can go too far, bringing otherwise lawful actors to not-so-lawful extremes. Granting myself the excuse of ignorance on the (actually unlawful) Peyton-butt-trainer-face incident during his time with the Tennessee Vols – let's instead focus on the quasi-jerk move a freshman Sheriff pulled while trying to get ahead in the Tennessee depth chart. After getting to Tennessee six weeks early to start his workouts, 3rd stringer Peyton and the other QBs were scheduled to meet with head coach Phillip Fulmer – but, timely as usual, Peyton was the only one there.
8 8. The Old Man Prepares Like a Teenager
It's widely known that aging increases your propensity for injury and your youth is your most physically fortuituous period. Peyton Manning's work ethic must not have gotten the memo because at 34 he was working out with D1 Sports Training’s regimen for college-athletes. The program Peyton engaged in has been covered by the bodily-exertion-fans over at MuscleProdigy and spans core strength, flexibility, and agility exercises. Core exercises included a variety of medicine-ball throws and the Russian twist (Putin’s favorite). Flexibility went between, guaranteeing to keep Captain 18 limber. And agility exercises finish the regimen with an assortment of reactive tennis ball shuffles, pass drops with over-speed or bungee resistance, mini-hurdle shuffles, speed ladders, and the globally renown “ickey” shuffle.
7 7. Self-Loathing on the Path to Greatness
6 6. One Phoenix Elicits Another
5 5. Scoring, Helping, and the In-Between
The “American Dream” is typically that you work at what you love, get compensated for that work, use that compensation to reward you and your family with stuff, and then if there’s a lot left over – you give some to the less-fortunate. For Peyton Manning and his meticulous commitment to all he’s involved in, there is no “leaving charity for later,” there is “working around the duties of charity.” The Sheriff once played a Monday Night Football game, took a late flight back to Indianapolis, and, having a charity event planned for 8:30 am – Peyton got to the Colts facility at 4 am to get his daily workout in with enough time to satisfy his charitable obligations.
4 4. Tape: Joe Harrington Meets the Competition
3 3. Indiana's Tax Code
In 1998, recent Coach of the Year for the Arizona Cardinals, Bruce Arians, was a Colts assistant coach having the young Sheriff in for a pre-draft interview. A strong candidate for the #1 pick, Peyton’s commitment to preparation was on full display as he entered the interview with a notebook full of his own questions – with topics ranging from the Colts’ offense to the Indiana tax code.
2 2. Resilience
Cooper Manning was supposed to be the family’s star, but the exceptional wideout’s career was cut short before college when he was diagnosed with spinal stenosis (where the spine narrows and nerves become pinched). While Peyton never endured spinal stenosis, those unfortunate spinal genes came into play when he missed all of 2011 with a herniated disc in his neck, resulting in four surgeries and cervical vertebral fusion complications leading to nerve damage and loss of sensation in his throwing arm.
1 1. "The Manning Effect"
John Elway claims that the entire Broncos organization got better when Peyton Manning signed their contract. Matt Hasselbeck claimed that despite Peyton’s departure from Indianapolis, 'you can still kind of feel [Peyton] in the building.' Tom Moore, a coach since 1961, claimed Peyton made him better. Brandon Stokley, elaborating on Peyton's impact on those around him suggested we call it "the Manning Effect."
This is a guy who, in 2013, called his to get tape of a play they ran in 1996: "Flip right duo X motion fake roll 98 block pass special," before using said play for an NFL completion. A guy who, following four surgeries at 36 years old, led the Broncos from the 23rd ranked offense to the 4th and 14 teammates to career-best seasons. The Sheriff will always symbolize dedication to your craft. And, as a wise man once said: God Bless America. God Bless Football.
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