Peyton Manning exemplifies the image of the National Football League. It’s plain and simple.
While he might not have the super-model wife and Super Bowl rings that his counterpart up in Foxborough does, Manning has a different charm to him.
About a month or so ago, I wrote that with all the flaws Major League Baseball has had, over the course of his twenty seasons, Derek Jeter represented the good in baseball and was an ambassador for the positive qualities in the sport.
Peyton Manning is just that for football. On Sunday, No. 18 broke the all-time touchdown passes record, surpassing Brett Favre as the all-time leading touchdown passer with 509 and eventually, 510. It was at that moment, after an eight-yard out to Demaryius Thomas in the end zone, that America was able to press the pause button on Manning’s career, and simply applaud the milestone.
Manning, like Jeter, has always put the personal records in the back seat, allowing team goals and winning to reign in the forefront.
And Peyton Manning is simply that—a winner. Disregarding the lack of playoff production discussion for now, Manning is the fourth-winningest quarterback in NFL history, behind Joe Montana, Roger Staubach and Tom Brady.
I’ve said numerous times that Brady and Manning are ‘1 and 1a’ when it comes to the greatest quarterbacks ever; there really isn’t a purpose in deciding which of the two are better. They’ll both be first-ballot Hall of Famers.
But what Manning has that Brady does not, is his universal image within the sport of football.
Manning is by far the most respected player in the sport. Sunday night proved it.
After No. 509 was caught, a montage of celebratory remarks were shown on the scoreboard of Sports Authority Field in Denver.
Quarterbacks like previous record-holder Brett Favre, Dan Marino, and yes, even Tom Brady congratulated Manning.
The common image of Peyton Manning is nothing short of respect, and that, more than anything, is what No. 18 will be remembered for the most when his career is over.
David Heim can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on twitter @davidheim12.