INDIANAPOLIS -- One by one, the special speakers at Peyton Manning’s statue ceremony said the same thing: How extremely special it is to have somebody like Manning play in the NFL.
Former Colts coach Tony Dungy said he met many players who were great people -- who gave back so much to their community. He’s also met great players, those who are some of the best in the history of the game.
“But it’s rare you run across a person with both those qualities,” Dungy said. “Great in the community, a great person, and extremely gifted and talented. The Lord gave me a lot of blessings in my life, but one of the great blessings was coaching Peyton Manning.”
Manning’s bronze statue was unveiled Saturday afternoon to cheering fans outside Lucas Oil Stadium, also known as The House That Peyton Built.
The statue shows Manning in Colts blue back to pass. His helmet is on, as he requested to the Colts.
Speaking Saturday afternoon was:
- Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett
- Former Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels.
- Former Colts president and general manager Bill Polian
- Former Colts coach Tony Dungy
- NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell
- Former Colts center Jeff Saturday
- Hoosier and longtime late night TV personality David Letterman
- Colts owner Jim Irsay
Hogsett spoke of the economic impact Manning brought to Indianapolis.
“Let me offer you this: Grants to Indianapolis from the PeyBack foundation -- $13 million,” Hogsett said. “The Peyton Manning Children’s Hospital -- $50 million. The economic impact of a Super Bowl brought to our city by the Manning Effect -- $100 million. But 14 seasons with The Sheriff? Priceless.”
Hogsett also declared this weekend “Peyton Manning Weekend” in Indianapolis, as Manning’s jersey is retired during Sunday’s Colts game.
Daniels told the story of the project to build Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.
“We took a little gold plating off,” Daniels said. “We left the retractable roof, Jimmy [Irsay], that you guys never seem to retract.”
Daniels said he weren’t worried about the cost because “If we build it, Peyton will fill it.”
Polian re-told the now-famous “If you don’t pick me…” story from before Manning was drafted No. 1 by the team in 1998.
An abridged version: Manning was meeting with the Colts a couple weeks before the draft. He discussed the possibility of being picked by the team to Polian. Polian responded by saying the team hasn’t made any decisions. To which Manning responded by saying: “If you don’t pick me, I’m gonna come back and kick your butt for the next 15 years.”
Goodell, who first walked to the podium to a smattering of boos from the crowd, told the story of how Manning took notes at the Rookie Symposium in 1998.
“He sat in the front row for every session, was super attentive, and took notes,” Goodell said. “I promise you, not too many people take notes in the Rookie Symposium.”
Goodell also made a declaring statement about Manning’s time in the NFL.
“No one has ever represented the game or the league with more class than Peyton Manning,” Goodell said.
Saturday began his speech by lamenting that the statue didn’t have his butt in it, after spending so many years as Manning’s center.
But Saturday said what he misses most about his time with Manning is the other stuff: The plane rides, the bus trips, the pranks at training camp.
“I can’t confirm nor deny that he may have put some golf carts on a floating dock in the middle of a lake at Rose-Hulman,” Saturday said.
Letterman, as he always does, brought the comedy to the ceremony.
“4-12-47 I was born in Indianapolis,” Letterman said. “Lived here most of my life. Been on television for 30 years. Where the hell’s my statue? Seriously. You made one, you can make two.”
Letterman discussed how different the city is now compared to how it was when he lived here, with so much of the change thanks to Manning.
“When I lived here, it was like a minimum-security prison with a race track,” Letterman said. “People said to me, ‘Dave we’re planning a trip to Indianapolis. What should we do?’ I said ‘Here’s what I would do – I’d go to Indianapolis, rent a car and drive to Chicago.”
When Manning finally took the stage, he spent most of the time thanking those in attendance – the Colts fans.
He was appreciative of the #LetterstoPeyton campaign, of the years of support, of the thousands of fans who wore his jersey for years and of course, the statue.
“I’m not on social media, but if I was, I would use the hashtag, #ThankYouIndianapolis,” he said. “It was both an honor and a privilege to be one of you. … I will always be a Colt.”
Watch the full ceremony in the video player above.
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