Peyton Manning To Be Immortalized At Statue Unveiling Saturday
INDIANAPOLIS -- Former Indianapolis Colts head coach Rick Venturi says Peyton Manning will always be one of the greats.
"Manning defines greatness as a player," Venturi told Dan Dakich on 107.5 FM and 1070 The Fan. "He had great talent, but he had that commitment to excellence, to work 24 hours a day, to get better, to not except losing."
As one of the city's most favorite sons, Manning helped bring the Colts franchise back to prominence in his days under center here in Indianapolis. Now retired, Manning will be returning to the place where he defined his pro football career this Saturday.
The Colts will unveil a statue of Manning on the steps outside Lucas Oil Stadium on Saturday, a day before he will be enshrined in the Colts' Ring of Honor at halftime of their home game against the San Francisco 49ers.
"I'm not 100-percent comfortable with this statue unveiling. I'm not quite sure how to wrap my arms around that," Manning humbly told JMV on 107.5 FM and 1070 The Fan. "I am incredibly grateful for the gesture."
Manning was drafted 1st overall by the Colts in 1998 and was with the team until 2011, during which time he led the Colts to eleven winning seasons with just as many playoff appearances and a victory in Super Bowl XLI in 2007. Manning also set numerous passing records in his tenure with the Colts, becoming the team's all-time leader in passing yardage (54,828), touchdowns (399), and quarterback rating (94.9).
One of the best things Manning remembers is during his time with the Colts, he saw a transition happen to the sports fan base here in Indiana. He saw the Colts go from an essential second-rate sports team in the Hoosier state, to a loved and revered team above all others.
Manning says he noticed the transition based on the amount of noise Colts fans made at home games in both the old RCA Dome and Lucas Oil Stadium.
"Other quarterbacks would come up to me and say 'we can't hear in here'," Manning recalled. "It's when that happened that I realized that the Colts were no longer an 'automatic win' for other teams that would come to town."
That transition became noticeable quickly after Manning came to Indy. His rookie season saw the Colts finish 3-13, well off contending for the playoffs. Avoiding the proverbial "sophomore slump", Manning helped lead the Colts to a 13-3 season and a playoff appearance in 1999. The Colts subsequently lost 19-16 to eventual the AFC Champion Tennessee Titans.
"I looked at Peyton as the blue print to the quarterback position and how you should treat it," said former Colts defensive end Dwight Freeney as he recalled his time playing with Manning. "I remember the defense went through a time where we couldn't stop anything, but he would come up to us and say ‘Don't worry. We've (the offense) got you. We just need one stop’."
Upon being released by the Colts in 2012 and signing with the Denver Broncos, Manning would go onto become the NFL's all-time leading passer, with 71,940 yards, in four more seasons.
The unveiling of Manning's statue outside Lucas Oil Stadium will be at 3:00p.m Saturday. On Sunday, along with being placed in the Ring of Honor, Manning's #18 will be officially retired. He'll be the first "Indianapolis" Colts player to have his number retired.
(PHOTO: Andy Lyons/Getty Images)