Back in the summer and fall of 2011 there were doubts about whether Peyton Manning would ever play again.
He had undergone three neck surgeries in 19 months — procedures that left his upper body atrophied and his throwing arm so weak that he was only able to throw a ball five yards.
Now, two years into a $96 million contract with the Denver Broncos, Peyton has completed a remarkable comeback.
SI's Peter King asked him if he ever thought about giving up.
Peyton said he thought he was toast at one point, but his wife Ashley convinced him to keep trying. From King:
"I was in Denver last month. I asked Manning a year-and-a-half after his free-agency foray, Was there one moment in that process when you said, It’s not going to happen?"
'Yeah,' he said, sitting in the Broncos’ cafeteria. 'Ashley [his wife] and I actually had those conversations. More than one. Because, you know, you don’t want to embarrass yourself. Because, they’re signing you and people are thinking they’re getting the player they had always seen before. And so, Ashley was the one that was saying, 'Peyton, you’ve got to try. You’ve got to try.' With this injury, nothing was happening. Nothing. For weeks. There was no progress. It was so frustrating. And really, I had a peace about it. I had a peace. Because, I had this unbelievable string of health for 20 years—since I was 15 years old as a sophomore in high school. So who was I to complain now that I’m injured? I’ve given it as good a run as I can give it. I’ve got kids now. I had a peace about it. So I didn’t feel like I had to play to get another win or a touchdown. But she’s like, 'You’ve got to try.' So I was glad that she pushed me to do it. Once I did it, I was going at it, and then I started seeing a little bit of light there. So, yeah, she was the one who kind of pushed me through it.'"
Manning's road back to the NFL was a difficult one. He had to completely relearn how to throw a football, as well as regain the loss of muscle on the right side of his body.
He told Sally Jenkins of the Washington Post earlier this year, "It’s hard to explain but I kind of lost awareness of my arm in space. When you had the same throwing motion for so long — golfers talk about repeating their swing, well, quarterbacks repeat too. But I couldn’t repeat. That was scary. Just discouraging."
He could have quit and retired at 35. Now, with the help of his wife, he's probably going to win the MVP at 37.
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