INDIANAPOLIS — Legendary former Indianapolis Colts quarterback Peyton Manning tonight was officially selected for induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame as part of its Class of 2021. He recently sat down with former Colts teammate Jeff Saturday to talk about how he learned about the honor, why his father, Archie, will be introducing him into the Hall of Fame, and much more.
Here is that entire conversation, which you can also catch above:
On Manning's initial reaction to be selected for induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame:
Manning: "Well, Jeff, thanks. I appreciate that. And had a chance to speak with you in confidence the other day — not to share the news with you, really; to say thanks to you for being my teammate, my friend, my center. You know, golly, how many conversations did you and I have at our locker about a blitz or on the plane ride — you know, you were trying to take a nap, and I was like, 'Hey, Jeff, what about this blitz they ran five years ago?' And we always figured it out. So those are the memories that I take away with me. Not a throw or a game, per se; it's just kind of the work that went into it behind the scenes and the people like yourself that have just been a part of it. As you know, it's been a heck of a ride, but to go on this journey, to do it by yourself, and to celebrate a win by yourself — and to share in a disappointing loss with other people, I mean, that's important — and to have to suffer through a loss by yourself, it just wouldn't have been worth it. So I've enjoyed having those conversations like I had with you with a number of people. I talked to Reggie (Wayne) the other day, I called Marvin (Harrison) and Edgerrin (James) — all guys that I know are vaults, right? All guys that can keep a secret and can have a private conversation. And talked to Tom Moore and Clyde Christensen, did a Zoom call, Jeff, the other day with Frank Reich, the equipment staff, the training staff, the guys that were there when you and I were there, I had a private moment with them — that was really special. So, same deal, just to call and say thanks. And I got to do that with the Broncos' staff and the University of Tennessee staff. So it's been a fun time for me to reflect. But the fact that I found out last Friday via my college coaches — Coach (David) Cutcliffe, Coach (Phillip) Fulmer — Tony Dungy, Jim Caldwell, Gary Kubiak, all coming out to see me and kind of share this news with me. What you may not have seen on the video is that I turned to kind of the video jumbotron and had a message from my high school coach, Tony Reginelli, who's 87 years old, Jim Mora, who was our first head coach in Indianapolis, who brought a toughness to our team, Tom Moore, longtime coordinator, and John Fox, who wasn't able to be there — 30 years of coaching flashing back in front of me in about a three-minute span. My wife, Ashley, kind of quarterbacked that moment; she organized that. The fact that they weren't going to do it on the hotel knock; they were going to come out to tell each person individually — our kids were there; that was a pretty special moment."
On how Manning's wife, Ashley, knew that special moment just wasn't going to work at the Manning home:
Manning: "I mean, you know, I don't think it's just me, I think for anybody, I think the original idea they wanted to act like we were having dinner on a Wednesday night with cameras (that) just happened to be there hanging out, and somebody knocks on the door, you're like, 'Oh, who's that gonna be? Oh, it's Ed McMahon, you just won a million dollars.' So that was a good audible on her part; she's like, 'Yeah, I don't think we're gonna do that. That just doesn't sound really real. So let's make this a football moment; he's got to be at the stadium doing some video recording stuff for ESPN, that show,' and got a lot of people rallied together. And, look, Jim Irsay flew out Tony Dungy and Jim Caldwell; Kubiak just retired, he's down in Houston; Cutcliffe's recruiting at Duke; Coach Fulmer, coming from Knoxville — I mean, the sacrifice and the inconvenience those guys went through to be there for me, that was really cool."
On being able to celebrate his Hall of Fame selection news with his family:
Manning: "Yeah. You know, Jeff, it was kind of weird, because they share this news with you, and then they say, 'You can tell anybody for two weeks.' So, you know, easier said than done. We went to a little restaurant right after, at 2 o'clock on a Friday, and all the coaches came there, and I'm kind of looking at this bartender, who's looking at me like, 'Let's see: Manning, Dungy, Kubiak, Cutcliffe. Like, what's going on here?' Evidently he's not real big on social media — nothing was posted. So it was a good restaurant we chose. But I did violate, sort of, the confidentiality by calling some people that I just had to call. My parents weren't able to be there; it was their 50th anniversary, they were actually celebrating, and so Ashley told them, 'Hey, don't leave that celebration.' And so I called them right away. My dad's going to present me. I asked him to do that. Jeff, you know, he's had the greatest football influence on me throughout my life, without ever being my coach. He was my dad (and) of course he played, but, I mean, thinking about knee football in the den, backyard football, all the workouts that I used to have with my receivers in high school that I would ask him to come and watch. He was glad to do it because I wanted him to be there; it wasn't him coming to me. And the help that he gave me … it's only appropriate that he presents me for this special honor. You mentioned my mom: I mean, how many football games has she seen in her life? You know, with my dad at college and NFL and youth sports and, I mean, how many practices has she driven me and Cooper and Eli to? So I thanked her. And you mentioned Cooper and Eli — I felt really lucky to be a middle brother, and got to play with Cooper a year in high school; probably the most enjoyable year I've had playing football, throwing passes to your older brother who you grew up playing with in the back yard or on the Superdome turf after a Saints game; and then Eli, to kind of watch his development — as I got to college, I'd see him once a year almost, all of a sudden he's bigger, he's taller. I get in the NFL, I go back and see him in college; and then to have the same job as him for so many years, and to have a sibling in the same business, you know, just thankful to them. Ashley, all the support and games that she's been through with me. And then just had a chance to call a lot of people, friends. Did a Zoom with my high school buddies yesterday, Jeff — receivers, guys that have come to a game every year since I've been playing; they never missed a game in college, came to one game a year in Knoxville, one game a year with the Colts, Broncos, every Super Bowl. We had a fun talk going down memory lane. All those people have been a part of it for me, so just wanted a chance to thank all of them."
On how Manning wants people to remember him as a football player:
Manning: "Well, I mean, I think the main thing is I want them to know how much I enjoyed everything that came with it. I enjoyed the work, I enjoyed the preparation. Everybody loves to play. As Marvin Harrison once said, they're paying you to practice; you know, the games you kind of play for free. And I think I agree with that, that all the hard work and the tough losses that we had that we stayed together and overcame them the next year, you know, everything kind of mattered to me about it. I was all in all the time, and I think that's a good way to approach it. But, like I said, as I think back, the people that I've gotten to meet on this ride, and to be a part of it, that's just been my greatest takeaway. I loved it, and I'm just thankful for the Colts — Jim Irsay and Bill Polian — for drafting me; I had 14 wonderful years in Indy, and Jim Irsay's going to fly me and my son down to Tampa for the Super Bowl on the Colts' plane, and just typical generosity of Jim. And thankful to the Broncos' organization for letting me come and play here. So I guess just a quarterback that's very grateful; if there's one word, that'd be a good word I hope people will remember about me."
On how much Manning is looking forward to his Hall of Fame enshrinement ceremony this summer in Canton:
Manning: "Well, Jeff, you know, you and I have been there for a few of them. The fact that we've had a couple teammates go in, coaches — Marvin Harrison, Tony Dungy, Bill Polian. And I think one of the best parts about it that it's been a little reunion of a lot of guys that did a lot of sprints, lifted a lot of weights, watched a lot of film together behind closed doors. And you get to have just a couple of small moments there with that group. And we got that great picture with Tony and Marvin, and it's me and you and (Ryan) Diem and (Adam) Meadows and Tarik (Glenn) — it's a bunch of us in that picture. And so I look forward to hopefully having a normal August, like you said, and being able to share that with a lot of those same people that were there for those guys' ceremonies, and some of those same people that I mentioned. And, like I said, we'll see what August looks like. Either way, between now and then, Jeff, I look forward to talking to a lot of these people and having these one-on-one conversations like I've had; it's hard to get to everybody in a short period of time. I'm gonna be brief on my speech; I'm going to be the first guy in history to actually speak (within) the proper time allotment they allow. As you know, there's some healthy speeches in that thing in years past, and it's a test of your discipline whether you can listen to a 45-minute speech. So, you know, I'm kind of the approach (that) I'd rather call these people personally between now and then and thank them and maybe generalize the thanks. One thing, Jeff, I have to share, that will probably make me emotional, in the fact that Howard Mudd won't be able to be there — you know, he and I used to talk about the history of the game, and he played the game, coached the game, he was our coach, and the fact that he's no longer with us, it makes me sad. You know, what a life that he lived, but I think I will definitely feel his presence in Ohio, hopefully, in August, if it happens. So Howard, God rest your soul."
On how special it is that he can share in the enshrinement festivities with his former running back Edgerrin James, who will also be inducted as part of the Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 2020 the same weekend in August:
Manning: "Yeah, I talked to Edge — talked to him the other day. And he actually called me about a month ago, just kind of out of the blue. He was in Utah and he was kind of doing the final touches on his Hall of Fame bust, and he was kind of trying to decide whether it looked like him, and kind of what I thought — he was asking for my opinion, which I'm not sure I gave him any valuable advice. But it looked good, it looked like him. I can remember him coming into that Colts facility in 1999 and some of the times we had on the field and off the field — what a fun guy to play with. One of the most unselfish, great players I've ever been around. You know, he took pride in getting the safeties down and forming an eight-man box, because he knew that meant one-on-one coverage outside. And that's not normal; everybody's not wired that way. So glad that he's finally getting to go in; I know last year with it being canceled it was disappointing for a lot of people, so it'll be cool. The Colts will be well represented down there in Canton in August."