A model of composure on and off the field, the Broncos
quarterback appears to all the world to be unruffled by the hype and
scrutiny surrounding him ahead of America's most-watched and
scrutinized sports event.
But his easygoing, Louisiana demeanor is misleading. Despite having
already achieved virtually every honor in the National Football
League, no player will be under more pressure in the Super Bowl than
With four Most Valuable Player awards and one Super Bowl ring
already in his keeping, Manning's place in the Pro Football Hall of
Fame is just a formality but this game, more than any other, could
determine his legacy.
With a victory, the meticulous planner and master tactician could go
down as the greatest quarterback the NFL has seen. But a loss could
raise more questions about his postseason record, with one title
from 13 trips to the playoffs.
At 37, time is running out for Manning to add a second Super Bowl to
the one he captured with the Indianapolis Colts seven years ago.
He played in a second Super Bowl with the Colts three years later
but lost and is now attempting to become the first quarterback to
win a NFL championship with two different teams.
"The Super Bowl, it's a big deal," he told reporters.
"I know how hard it is to get here. I know how much time and
sacrifice our team has made in order to have this opportunity to
play in this game."
It wasn't long ago that Manning looked as though he may never get
another opportunity to get his hands on the Vince Lombardi Trophy.
His long association with Indianapolis ended two years ago when he
missed the entire 2011 season because of a neck injury that needed
surgery and threatened to end his career.
He was released by the Colts and the Broncos splashed out to sign
him after he was given medical clearance to play again.
Manning's first year with Denver ended in disappointment. After
finishing the regular season with the best record in the AFC, the
Broncos lost in the divisional round of the playoffs to the eventual
champion Baltimore Ravens in double overtime.
This season, Manning produced arguably the finest year of his
career, setting a whole bunch of records, including the most
touchdown passes in a single season.
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The Broncos again finished with the best record in the AFC but
unlike last time, they held their nerve in the playoffs to reach the
Super Bowl and Denver head coach John Fox said Manning deserved a
lot of the credit.
"I've been blessed to be around a lot of great players and he
obviously is one of them. In my opinion, no question, a first-ballot
Hall of Famer in some point," Fox said.
"He's a tremendous, tremendous player as well as a guy, as far as
what he went through. It's a pretty different injury that he
"To work back and to learn a new offense, learn a new football team,
learn a new city and two years later be in the Super Bowl is pretty
By a twist of fate, the venue for Sunday's Super Bowl — the MetLife
Stadium in New Jersey — offers Manning a unique chance to square a
Manning's younger brother Eli, the quarterback for the New York
Giants, has won two Super Bowls. His second came two years ago in
Indianapolis, in the same season which Peyton sat out.
Peyton watched the game from the sideline with his father Archie,
himself a former NFL quarterback, and now gets the chance to turn
the tables and win in the stadium where Eli's Giants play.
"Eli and I have talked about playing in this stadium," Peyton said.
"Eli has been always helpful to me for many reasons. I've talked to
him a number of times these past couple of weeks, and he is excited
for me. I've always appreciated his help and support."
While a win on Sunday would cap an incredible career for Manning and
present him with the perfect chance to exit the game on the ultimate
high, he said retirement was not in his plans.
"Everybody enjoys the games. Everybody is going to be excited to
play in a Super Bowl. When you still enjoy the preparation and the
work part of it, I think you ought to be still doing that," he said.
"As soon as I stop enjoying it, if I can't produce, if I can't help
a team, that's when I will stop playing. If that's next year, then
maybe it is. I certainly want to continue to keep playing."
(Editing by Frank Pingue)
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