INDIANAPOLIS – On March 18, No. 18 will be back in the Circle City.
Peyton Manning is returning to the place he called home for the first 14 years of his Hall of Fame career.
This Friday, the Colts will honor Manning at the Indiana Farm Bureau Football Center.
Such a gathering is something Irsay told Manning he wanted to do in January, if this past season was indeed the final chapter of Manning's life in the NFL.
"I told him (after the AFC Championship) I hope you can feel the energy of (Indianapolis) pulling for you," Irsay said about his conversation with Manning prior to Super Bowl 50.
"I told (Manning), we would love to have him in here to retire as a Colt. We would love it. I told him, 'That airplane is waiting for you. The red carpet is clean and lined for you.' We would be honored to have him come home…
"That would be really special."
While Manning isn't "retiring as a Colt" (the Broncos placed Manning on the reserve/retired list), Irsay wanted to honor a player that shaped the franchise like no other.
At the retirement press conference for Manning in Denver, No. 18 offered his thanks to what the city of Indianapolis meant to him and his family.
"Thank you to the Indianapolis Colts organization, all of the fans across this country. You can't fathom how much I enjoyed my 14 years there, or the warmth my family feels for you. I'd be wrong not to mention Jim Irsay, Bill Polian, some great coaches, support staff and a host of wonderful Colts' teammates, many of whom will be lifelong friends."
"When I was drafted by the Colts, Indianapolis was a basketball and car racing town. But it didn't take long for the Colts to convert the city and state of Indiana into football evangelists. We ended my rookie season 3-13 and in the process I set the NFL rookie record for interceptions that I still hold today (smiles). Every year, I pull for a rookie quarterback to break that record. Andrew Luck, Matthew Stafford, Eli Manning, Cam Newton. I still kid Eli he would have broken it had he started all 16 games. In the beginning of my time in Indy, the team's struggles were agonizing. My grandfather would call me weekly to ask if his favorite announcers, John Madden and Pat Summerall would be broadcasting our game. 'Papa,' I would say, 'We are only 2-8 right now. We are playing the 3-7 Bengals. Madden and Summerall don't broadcast those kinds of games.'
Fast forward to my second year or when we had gotten things going a little bit. We were playing the Dallas Cowboys including Troy Aikman, Emmitt Smith, Michael Irvin and Deion Sanders. I called Papa, 'Guess what, Madden and Summerall are broadcasting the game.' He said, 'I can't believe it.' He was elated and very proud. We beat the Cowboys that week and we let the world know that the Colts had arrived. Make no mistake about it, we were coming. And we went on to do some phenomenal things like winning at least 12 games seven years in a row and of course winning Super Bowl XLI. I was truly honored to be a part of it."
When Manning officially announced his retirement earlier this month, Irsay shared his thoughts on such an illustrious tenure coming to a close.
"Few have left their marks on a sport as Peyton Manning has," Irsay said. "Simply put, he revolutionized NFL football. Peyton energized it as had no one before him, he made it more fun for our fans, and made the game better. Off the field, Peyton has been a tremendous ambassador for the game and the epitome of someone who gives back to the community. He is the most recognizable face in the history of the NFL, and perhaps its most popular.
"I will miss seeing #18 on the field on Sundays and I am proud and thankful for all he's done for the Colts, our community, and the NFL. On behalf of Colts and NFL fans worldwide, I thank Peyton and congratulate him on an incredible career."
In Manning's 13 playing seasons with the Colts, he was a seven-time first-team All-Pro and led the Colts to eight division championships.
That's just the start of a seemingly never-ending list of club and NFL records for Manning:
- Most career passing yards in NFL history (71,940).
- Most career passing touchdowns in league history (539).
- Most passing yards in a single season (5,477).
- Most touchdowns in a single season (55).
- Tied for the most regular season wins by a quarterback (186).
- Manning started the first 208 career games of his career, an NFL record for any position.