INDIANAPOLIS – The announcement for a statue and the retirement of his jersey was complete.
It was Peyton Manning's turn at the podium.
Storytime was in session at the Indiana Farm Bureau Football Center and Manning had the floor.
The vivid imagery and details Manning told on Friday afternoon back in a "comfortable" setting had the full attention from the crowd assembled.
With current and past mayors of Indianapolis present, former teammates and the Colts' staff, many members Manning still considers close friends, No. 18 showed why this city and fan base has endeared him for nearly 20 years.
Manning's storytime went something like this:
On his first memory of Jim Irsay's plane, flying to visit the Colts during pre-draft meetings:
"Jim was, as he's always been, extremely generous and flew me up here. I was down in Florida (Thursday), and I was kind of reminiscing on some of my trips on the Colts plane. The very first time that Jim mentioned it, they sent the plane to Knoxville to pick me up. It had to been in probably February or March of 1998. They flew me down to Miami to meet with Jim at the Surf Club, which was a cool place. Jim and I had a really special meeting and shared some private conversations that had a big effect on that journey that Jim mentioned. On the plane, I was really nervous about this visit. I studied up on my Colts personnel. I knew who Bill Polian was, Pete Ward, Bob Terpening and of course knew who Jim Irsay was. On the plane was a Colts staff member named Kenny Heague. His name didn't ring a bell to anybody who hasn't been here with the Colts for a longtime, but I did not remember seeing 'Kenny Heague' in the Colts' media guide. I could not gather who he was or where he was from. I was just nervous around him. I was thinking he's got to probably be in personnel, executive vice president, got to be in a big role. I said, 'Kenny, how long have you been here with the Colts?' He said, 'Well, this is my first year.' I said probably came from the Carolina Panthers with Bill Polian, probably Assistant General Manager and he was real nervous and yes sir and no sir. I said, 'Well Kenny, who were you with before you got here?' And he said, 'Oh, I was the road manager for Live and the Indigo Girls.' He had an English accent. I kind of relaxed from that point on and went down and had a great visit with Jim."
On flying from the draft in New York to Indianapolis, after being taken No. 1 overall in 1998 and other times he was on Irsay's plane:
"Jim was (in New York) and then flew here immediately after the draft, came right here to the Colts facility. A lot of things were different back then. Bill Polian had red hair. (Media member) Mike Chappell had the same mullet he has now (laughs). I can remember sitting in the front row with a friend of Jim's, I can't remember his name, but he was asking me, 'Who do you think we're going to take in the second round? You think Randy Moss is going to be available?' We're already analyzing the second round. I said, 'I can't tell you. I'm just so excited to be drafted by the Indianapolis Colts and looking forward to starting this journey.'
"Then, Jim 15 years ago today was generous enough to fly Ashley and I on our honeymoon down in Mexico. Just extremely generous, he always has been. He flew me to my grandmother's funeral on that plane. Flew a bunch of us to Reggie Wayne's brother's funeral. Jim's been extremely generous to me, and I'll always be indebted to you for that Jim."
On trying to learn the Colts playbook as a rookie just prior to the team's minicamp:
"After that first visit here after the draft, we had a minicamp here starting that first Friday. Rookies weren't allowed to report to minicamp until that Friday. I ended up reporting on Tuesday and spending three days and nights at the Signature Inn on 38th Street, which is not there anymore, with Tom Moore and Bruce Arians going over the Colts offense. Jim, I hope the NFL can't penalize you 18 years later. They really should penalize the Cardinals. It was Tom Moore and Bruce Arians' idea, so go after the Cardinals. Learned that offense and started at minicamp on Friday and kind of hit the ground running."
On missing three days of Training Camp due to signing his first contract:
"I can remember when I signed with the Colts, I missed three days of training camp. Did not want to miss any camp but kind of learned the business side of things. I may have missed some more time if (backup quarterback) Kelly Holcomb didn't run into Marshall Faulk on a handoff in Training Camp. Marshall Faulk turned to somebody and said get that rookie quarterback in here. I was on a commercial flight into Indianapolis that night. I met Tom Condon over at St. Elmo's. It was his third trip to St. Elmo's that night, which has got to be a record. Came over here the next morning and signed my contract and drove up to Anderson with Bill Polian and was at practice that afternoon."
On his very first preseason game and memories of Marvin Harrison:
"The very first preseason game, my very first pass, I threw a five-yard touchdown pass and Marvin Harrison ran 48-yards for a touchdown. I remember thinking, this NFL is easy. You just throw a short pass to Marvin Harrison and he runs for touchdowns, which is pretty much what he did for the entire time we played together. I think many records will be broken. Most of my records will be broken. I don't believe that record, that me and Marvin have of throwing the most touchdowns, will ever be broken. Even though that was a preseason game, that was the first of many. I completed four more passes that night, two of them to Seattle, but I remember that first touchdown to Marvin."
On his first regular season game against the Jets:
"That rookie year, I remember we won three games together that year. One of them was against the New York Jets, who were a great team, ended up going to the AFC Championship. Kind of just an example of what happens when you go 3-13, and you're a rookie quarterback. I was already leading the league in interceptions at that point. I had already thrown two in the first half, but we're in this game, we're on the 50-yard line. There's 10 seconds left and the coaches say, 'Hey, just throw a Hail Mary, just throw it deep.' I'm thinking, this is an automatic interception. It's the 50-yardline there's no way my receivers are going to have time to get down there. I said, 'Could we please try to throw a shorter pass, get closer, maybe give us a chance for a field goal?' They said, 'No, throw it in the end zone.' I'm thinking, man, third interception before the half, not exactly what I want to do. We have a chance to win this game. 'So I drop back, I actually run nine yards to about the 41-yard line. I dive out of bounds with about 1 second left right in front of Bill Parcells. He's going, 'That's it. That's it. The half is over,' and I'm going, 'No, no, there's one second left, one second.' They're fighting and then all of a sudden the referee says, 'Alright, one second left.' I run off the field, coaches go, 'Hey, great job. Smart play. Way to be heads up. That's good thinking.' I'm really feeling good. We go out there and kick a field goal and (Jets wide receiver) Aaron Glenn catches the ball in the back of the end zone and runs 109 yards for a touchdown the other way. Then the coaches go, 'You are so stupid. Why did you do that? I told you to throw it in the end zone (laughs).' Those are the things that happen when you're a rookie quarterback as a first year."
On going to Mexico for a preseason game:
"I can remember a preseason game going down to Mexico City against the Steelers and my center, Jeff Saturday, catching a little of Montezuma's revenge and me asking Howard Mudd if we could be in the shotgun a little bit more that evening.
On Reggie Wayne's first touchdown:
"I remember Reggie Wayne's first touchdown, against Houston on a tipped ball. Kind of an uneventful game but I remember it."
On calling the Colts' complex to hear Bob Lamey's voice, when on hold:
"I remember calling over here, 297-Colt, to want to talk to a coach or Jon Scott or somebody and hoping to get on hold so I could hear Bob Lamey broadcasting a play from a previous play in the season. I used to love that and usually when you called, Carol Ballinger would put you on hold for about five minutes but I actually enjoyed it. It was the one time I liked being on hold."
On the fans in Indianapolis (emotional):
"I can remember Colts fans and just the amount of jerseys they wore in the stadium, in the old RCA Dome, more than any other stadium in the league in my opinion.
"I can remember the fan celebration here in Indianapolis after we beat the Patriots in the (AFC) Championship Game, there was nothing quite like it in downtown Indy."
On Tony Dungy:
"I remember Tony Dungy's press conference and meeting with him and learning some of his phrases and expressions – no excuses, no explanations – and keeping those with me throughout my entire career. I remember the calmness of Coach Dungy in the AFC Championship down 21-6 and saying, 'We're fine. We are fine.' I also remember him saying all week that we were not going to kick the ball to Devin Hester and then some players going, 'No, no, we can get him, we can get him, let's do it, let's do it.' And the one time that Coach Dungy actually changed his mind, well that didn't work out so well on the kickoff, but we sure did win the game and that sure was a special night."
On the 2003 Monday Night Football comeback in Tampa Bay:
"I remember that miracle night in Tampa and I remember getting texts and emails saying, 'Hey, sorry about the loss, keep your head up, good luck next week (laughs).'"
On the Super Bowl loss to the Saints:
"I can remember the painful losses against the Steelers and the Saints and I can remember walking off the field with Reggie Wayne, who was from New Orleans. Two guys who just got beat by their favorite team growing up, but I was glad to be there with Reggie and I was glad that we bounced back after the Steelers won a Super Bowl the next year."
On the old AFC East and the RCA Dome:
"I remember the old AFC East, right. The original AFC East. Head coaches that year were Jim Mora, Jimmy Johnson, Bill Parcells, Wade Phillips and Pete Carroll. I remember the RCA Dome and how loud it used to be and watching (Robert) Mathis and (Dwight) Freeney speed up the field and Bob Sanders torpedo some guy right in the back. I remember some deep communication philosophy talks with Howard Mudd on protection."
On former offensive coordinator Tom Moore's sayings:
"I remember Tom Moore and his famous expressions and sayings. We made a t-shirt, it said, 'Late night from Terre Haute with Tom Moore.' We had his top 10 sayings. Tom actually hands those out now like a business card, if somebody needs something (laughs). There are so many of them, a couple of my favorites, he used to always tell you, 'If you keep throwing that ball high across the middle they're going to be carrying that guy out boots first.' I used to love that expression. My all-time favorite was around minicamp when you had to turn your playbook back in after the minicamp because you didn't know if these rookies were even going to be on the team by the time we reported to training camp. He'd say, 'Hey, this is our stuff. These are our plays. Don't be going back to your colleges and high school and giving them our playbooks and giving them our plays. Tell them to get their butts up earlier in the morning, work a little harder and come up with their own plays.' I remember that like it was yesterday."
On the Colts Complex:
"I remember coming over here on Tuesdays as a rookie and throwing out-routes to (equipment staffer) Mike Mays out here, out on this field, because I couldn't complete this out-route to the left. Throwing balls with Smack."
On a visit from Bob Knight:
"I remember Bobby Knight coming out here and speaking to the team. We had just gone from 3-13 to 13-3 and he said, 'You'd think if you'd have the greatest turnaround in NFL history, they would give you more than a game in Mexico City as a reward.' He had his classic light blue sweater on as well."
On bonding time with his teammates:
"I remember arguing with Jeff (Saturday) and Tarik (Glenn) over whether we should be running the ball more. Healthy conversations on the sideline. Kind of always felt out-manned by that."
"I remember a lot of golf matches at Eagle Creek and Golf Club of Indiana, Broadmoor, CCI, Crooked Stick, Wolf Run with Clyde (Christensen) and (Brandon) Stokley and Dallas (Clark). You did not want to miss a putt on the 18th green because you'd get over here to lift weights the next morning and the whole building would know about it. They would come and tell you, 'Hey, I heard you missed a five-footer on 18.' I will miss that. So many players, Ryan Diem and Hunter Smith are here. We had so many great guys, we had such a special group and the most important thing about it was everyone knew how special it was. What a unique group and bond we had and it really was special. I've heard from so many of those players this past week: Robert Mathis, Joe Addai, Dominic Rhodes and just so many great guys. I miss playing with (Ryan) Diem and (Rick) DeMulling, and Jake Scott and (Ryan) Lilja. We used to smoke a cigar after the game right by the busses, right by the plane before coming back from a road game. Every time this lady from the TSA would go, 'You cannot smoke out here by the plane, there is gasoline out here,' and Diem would stand up and go, 'We're smoking, alright. We're smoking.' She'd go, 'Okay,' and would back off (laughs). Every time, I can remember those and always cherish those."
"I remember (Ken) Dilger and (Marcus) Pollard just always enjoying breaking the huddle, having Dilger and Pollard at each of my tight end spots. I remember Mike Vanderjagt kicking two 50-yard-plus field goals in the snow in Denver and our flight got canceled back on the way to Denver and we stayed up all night at some crappy hotel in Denver but we all enjoyed it."
"I remember many of quarterbacks meetings with Kelly Holcomb, Brock Huard, Jim Sorgi, Curtis Painter – those guys helped me so much."
"It's always important to me to be a good teammate and to have the respect of the teammates and the coaches that you played for. Also, if you can to have the respect of the players you played against and the coaches you played against. This is where I played 14 of my 18 years. I had a chance to play with some great teammates. My relationships with my teammates were important to me, they really were. My 11 years of playing with Ryan Diem has created a lifelong friendship for me. That's important to me I have that. I can say that for so many players I've played with. Like I said, that's what is important to me, and I hope I was able to do that, that guys would say I was a good teammate."
On the Colts' equipment staff:
"Every time I would do a new commercial I'd get an early copy of it, I'd go in the equipment room and I would show it to Jon Scott, T (Brian Seabrooks) and Frog (Sean Sullivan) and Smack (Mike Mays) and kind of get their approval and if they were laughing real hard then I'd say, 'Okay, let's go with it. It must be a good commercial.'"
On the Colts' video staff:
"I can remember Fuzzy (John Starliper) and Marty (Heckscher), our video guys, dropping beta tapes off at my house at 9:30 at night because I'd ask, 'Hey, do we have a copy of that Tampa game from five years ago against the Cowboys?' And they would do it. They would come to my house and bring me a beta tape."
On the Colts' training/strength staff:
"I remember many of funny conversations in the training room with Dave Hammer, Wally (Dave Walston) and Erin (Barill) and catching up on all the funny stories that have gone on during the week. I see a lot of grey hair on Erin and a lot of that is on me and all the rehab that I've made him put me through, but he did the very best and got me back healthy and playing again."
"Rich Howell, I forgot him. Rich Howell, he is our weight coach, but he was our snapper out there and he had carpal tunnel and almost had to have surgery because of so many snaps he gave to me."
On the infamous Jim Mora rant:
"I can remember Jim Mora's 'Playoffs, Playoffs' press conference. Which, sure people enjoy it, not exactly a fond memory for me. The reason he said that is because I threw four interceptions in that game against the 49ers, so I don't enjoy seeing that quite as much."
On the media describing his play:
"I can remember my rookie year having so many tough games.* *I lived for a short time in my rookie year at the Indianapolis Athletic Club and getting home and watching channel 13, Dave Calabro and Jack Trudeau absolutely ripping my face off about how bad I played that day. But they were right, I did play bad and I deserved it."
On the city of Indianapolis:
"This town is a very philanthropic town and people love to help and they love to give and so I was glad to join in that commitment to helping. The PeyBack Foundation, we try to help out a lot of kids who maybe don't have life easy and of course my connection with the children's hospital at St. Vincent is one that I hope lasts for eternity and one that I'm proud to still have and will always keep a connection with me with this city off the field. I'm heading over there later today. We have our big fundraiser tomorrow night. As far as what it was like when I got here, I mean look, the Colts had been to the AFC Championship three years before I got here and was one Hail Mary away from going to the Super Bowl. But I do recall just kind of going out and getting a poll it was basketball, basketball, basketball and it was car racing, car racing, car racing and where football was probably in that third priority and that is simply no longer the case. This is a football town. As good a football town as any. These fans love their team and they're talking about football in February, March, April, it's year round now. It was fun to be a part of that kind of transformation. There were so many people that were a part of that, Jim and Bill and Edgerrin (James) and Marvin, this long list. So it was fun to kind of witness that first hand. That is something that I'll always cherish being a part of."
With those in the audience likely wanting Manning to not stop anytime soon, No. 18 closed with one lasting thank-you.
"I've really enjoyed this past week and a half going down memory lane," Manning said.
"It's been a lot of fun, communicating, getting texts, voicemails, Jim and I had a fabulous conversation, the day I announced I was retiring, many conversations like that with so many members of this organization and players who have played here. It really means a lot to me. To be back here, see some of the folks face-to-face is just extremely special. I can't tell you how honored and humbled I am, how much fun I had playing here for 14 years. I want to thank you very much, from the bottom of my heart."