Peyton Manning mentioned plenty of legends during his 11-minute retirement speech Monday in Denver, but only one name mentioned had as much gravitas as Manning’s place in the game today.
That name was Johnny Unitas and Manning recalled meeting the Hall of Famer and Colts icon during his rookie season after a 38-31 loss back on Nov. 29, 1998.
“It was the first time that the Colts had returned to Baltimore since they had moved back in 1984,” Manning remembered. “We didn’t exactly get a warm reception that day. The fans were screaming at me, and I kept thinking, ‘Hey, I was only 8-years-old then, get off of my back.’
“I had met him once before, but when the game was over I had the chance to shake Johnny Unitas’ hand. He told me, ‘Peyton, you stay at it. I’m pulling for you.’ Well, I have stayed at it. I’ve stayed at it for 18 years and I hope that old No. 19 is up there with his flat top and maybe his black high-tops on and I hope he knows that I have stayed at it and maybe he’s even a little proud of me.
“There is just something about 18 years. Eighteen is a good number, and today I retire from pro football.”