After 18 seasons, five MVP awards, two Super Bowl wins, and just about every meaningful record that a quarterback can achieve, Peyton Manning has officially announced his retirement from the NFL. Even though he's about to turn 40 and 2015 was statistically the worst season of his career, it's likely he still wanted to play, and who could blame him? Football is all he's known his entire life. Whether his body could allow him to do the things he need to do to play at a high level is another matter, though, which is why he's hanging up the cleats.
Like Kobe Bryant, a legend in his own right that's using his final season as something of a victory lap after an incredible career, Manning doesn't have anything left to prove. Both expected the world out of themselves while in their primes, and made everyone around them better. The latter is now officially calling it a career, but the NFL is forever changed thanks to how he played the quarterback position, and the light sense of humor that defined his persona off the field.
Teammates, opponents, organizations, and the sporting world at large sent out their appreciation on social media for one of the all-time greats.
In his speech at the Broncos' press conference Monday, Manning exhibited the same class and respect for the game he always has. It was impossible to name all the people who helped him get to the heights he reached over his 18 years in the NFL, but he still gave it a shot anyway, naming players, coaches, and even equipment room guys from both the Colts and Broncos.
It was clear he thought the speech through, and that preparation is perhaps the most distinguishable trait about him as both a player and a person. "There were others with more talent, but no one could out-prepare me," he said.
After his speech, he took several questions from the media, and among them was an inquiry into how sure he felt that now was the time to walk away. He kept the response simple. "Maybe I don't throw as good or run as good, but I've always had good timing," he claimed.
And possibly his best quote, spoken with a shaky voice, showed his true feelings for the game he's played since he was a kid.
"I love the game," he said. "So you don't have to wonder if I'll miss it. Absolutely. Absolutely I will."
Clearly, the game will miss him, too.
Cover image: Von Miller via Instagram