INDIANAPOLIS — Tony Dungy was neck-deep in preparation for his Colts team's upcoming game about 10 years ago when he received a phone call from his wife, Lauren.
"My wife says, 'Peyton Manning's at Eric's game,'" Dungy recalled, referring to their son, Eric, who was at that time playing for the freshman football team at Park Tudor High School in Indianapolis.
The act was pure Manning, Dungy said; show up, unannounced, to a local high school football game to show a little support for someone who had been helping the Colts out during their practices that offseason.
It's those kind of stories — and there are dozens of them — that have made Manning a legend in the Indianapolis area since he was taken by the Colts with the No. 1-overall pick in the 1998 NFL Draft. Sure, Manning would become the greatest quarterback in league history and a Super Bowl champion while playing with the Colts and, later, with the Denver Broncos, but Dungy points to those off-the-field moments as the primary reason No. 18 remains so beloved in the community.
So it was no surprise to Dungy when he learned the Colts were building a statue outside of Lucas Oil Stadium to honor Manning, as well as retiring Manning's No. 18 and inducting him into the team's Ring of Honor, all in multiple ceremonies the weekend of Oct. 8, when they play host to the San Francisco 49ers in Indy.
Dungy was personally invited by Manning to attend the statue dedication Oct. 7, and, of course, the Hall of Fame head coach said he's "looking forward to being here" to witness it.
"I think it's really, really special what Peyton did," Dungy told Colts.com's Caroline Cann on Wednesday before the team's annual Kickoff Luncheon. "I got here in Year 5 of Peyton's time here, and he had done quite a bit at that time on the field — and off. But that last decade he was here, the things that he did off the field, to me, even surpassed the championships and the records on the field. So to recognize that, that here's a guy that, yes, played great football for us, but was such a part of this community — and such an integral part. I think it's awesome."
Dungy, of course, won't be the only high-profile guest who plans on attending the ceremonies that weekend.
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell — also a special guest at this week's Kickoff Luncheon — said he was also personally invited by Manning to come out to the Circle City that weekend for the celebration.
"I think it's wonderful, because I have nothing but great respect and admiration for Peyton," Goodell said. "I plan to be here — he called about it and asked if I'd be here, and I'm honored to be here. And I think it's a tribute that is fitting for someone that, I think, meant so much to this community."
Goodell said he could tell Manning is champing at the bit for his special weekend — not necessarily for himself, but to have the opportunity to share in the moment with his closest family, friends, former teammates and, of course, the fans of the Colts.
"He's excited by it, I know the Colts are excited by it, and I've gotta believe this community will look at this as something they can rally around and say, 'This is really great. This is a person that gave so much back to this community, not just on the field, but off the field," Goodell said. "And that's a wonderful thing."