What does is mean to be great? Oxford Dictionaries defines great as “of an extent, amount, or intensity considerably above the normal or average.” Of that rhetoric, we can all agree that Peyton Manning was truly great at playing and managing the game we all love, football.
I can’t help but look back on my time with Peyton, as brief as it was, and feel that one’s greatness expands far beyond the tight spirals and perfect reads that occur on Sundays. It ventures much deeper in to the core of a person’s values and begs the question “why?” Why do you work so hard? Why does the game mean so much to you? Peyton’s retirement set the sports world straight when he shared that his drive to be the best did not originate with the goal of mastering all parts of the game of football but instead it was birthed out of his reverence for a dream: That dream being the game of football, a dream that would blossom at the highest level, the NFL.
After absorbing Peyton’s emotional good-bye, it finally clicked. The light switch activated in my mind. My brush with greatness was not just about sharing the gridiron field with a “considerably above normal” player. It was about following a man into competitive battle who sincerely relinquished every ounce of his being into operating at his fullest potential.
As a teammate, that quality was infectious. Peyton’s greatness demanded that the rest of us reach towards the same dream that he possessed in the depths of his heart. If we, as his band of brothers, could empty ourselves into the game, even if only a fraction of what Peyton gave, we would surely come that much closer to our own personal greatness.
Only when one man’s example leads 52 others to believe that their potential is more significant than they ever imagined can a team become great. The result is my dream. I was a little boy from small-town Minnesota, catching passes in the back yard from my dad, twenty years later stepping on to a Super Bowl championship field, catching a pass from Peyton Manning, and hoisting the Lombardi trophy. What a dream come true.
Thank you Peyton Manning, my quarterback, my friend, for leading me into a culture of greatness, where I challenge myself to be the best husband, father, friend, and man of God that I can possibly be. My friend, you are a great football player, but more importantly you are a great man. Let’s all take a lesson and surrender all of ourselves over to the belief that greatness lies in each of us. All it takes is reaching for a dream.
2003-2007 Indianapolis Colt & Super Bowl Champion