When Peyton Manning missed the entire 2011 season recovering from neck surgery, there was definitely a large void in the NFL. Not just in highlights of Manning on the field, but fans also missed out on seeing the multitude of television commercials that Manning always shoots in the off-season. Well, after a year off of our television screens and the football field, Manning is returning to make our football season feel complete again.
I'm looking forward to seeing how the casual football fan in Denver reacts to Manning when the season starts. Serious football fans already know how awesome Manning is professionally and we've all been looking forward to watching his commercials once again. However, I have several friends who are still, months after he was traded, lamenting the loss of Tim Tebow. They still feel that Tebow is one of the rare NFL players who they can relate to in terms of faith and just in being an overall good guy. They know that Manning is a great quarterback, but they don't really know who he is as a person.
I've tried to convince them that Manning is also a high-character guy. Tebow has raised money for his own personal charity, the Tebow Foundation, since 2011. Manning has done work for years in Indianapolis raising money for his PeyBack Foundation. Since 1999, Manning's foundation has donated $4.3 million to children's charities in Indianapolis, Tennessee (where he went to college), and Louisiana (where he was raised). In 2007, the local Children's hospital in Indianapolis was renamed the Peyton Manning Children's Hospital because of all the work he had done there and all the money his foundation had raised.
When it comes to their personalities, Denver fans were treated to the always-positive but rarely detailed Tebow in interviews and press conferences. However, Manning takes this to the next level. He's very media-friendly and will speak to reporters far more and about more complex football topics than what the Broncos allowed Tebow to do. He also has a wicked sense of humor that will be on display typically only when the team is doing well. From a distance, casual football fans may not realize just how funny Manning can be.
I've already made it my business to try and educate my friends. I've sent them clips of Manning's best and funniest commercials. I've shown them the Saturday Night Live episode where Manning played host. Tebow's funniest moment came when he was parodied in a skit last fall on the show, but Manning's personal appearance was one of the funniest and most self-deprecating a performance as I've ever seen from a professional athlete.
In a way, Denver Broncos fans have been the most fortunate of any in the NFL over the past few years. Not only have they had the benefit of watching and rooting for a guy the likes of Tim Tebow, but, now that he's gone, they get to root for Peyton Manning. In my opinion, Manning is Tebow's superior on the field and as an actor. I think Tebow fans will be charmed and thrilled by Manning over the course of this next season to the point where the memory of Tebow will begin to fade.
Julie is a featured NFL contributor for the Yahoo Contributor Network. A fanatical lifelong football fan, she began rooting for the Broncos upon moving to Denver in 2001.