This weekend, Peyton Manning spoke at the valediction of the University of Virginia's Class of 2014, and like pretty much everything else Manning does, he was exceptional. Man, is this guy frustrating.
Manning ran through the typical speaker's routine: connection to the school, "as I was thinking of what to say...," anecdotes about his own playing days, and finally an inspiring call to action. The whole video above is worth watching, but here are a few of the highlights.
Manning mentioned his wife, Ashley, is a Virginia grad ("I like to tell people she went to UVa because she couldn't get into Tennessee") and listed a few local landmarks, right down to the menu items he'd ordered while in town.
The valediction took place on UVa's heralded Lawn, and Manning lamented that he'd never gotten the chance to throw a football on that lawn. He rectified that by tossing footballs to three students of note, telling one, "Don't be nervous. If you miss, it's not like this will be on YouTube."
He mentioned that each of the graduating students was about to become a freshman, a rookie, all over again, and told a story of his very first game he played at Tennessee, as a freshman. Recalling the words of his father, he tried to take over the huddle and inspire his older, much larger teammates. His offensive tackle brushed off the inspirational hoo-hah with a curt "Hey, freshman. Shut the blank up and call the blanking play."
Manning used that as a segue to his initial calls to action. "If the real world isn't kind to newcomers, it's because the people in it have chosen to be unkind," he said. "You and your future coworkers have the ability to change that."
He also urged graduates to embrace possibility. "You have the power to influence change in so many ways that have never been possible before," Manning said. "You're the generation that can put ethics and values back in vogue again."
And he urged graduates not to buckle: "When you're chided for your naivete, and you will be, remind your critics that an amateur built the ark. Experts built the Titanic."
Manning also mentioned the player who hit him the hardest: Ray Lewis, of course. "He likes to drive you into the ground, use you to get up, then whisper in your ear, 'I'll be back here in a couple minutes,'" Manning smiled. He recalled buying Lewis dinners, drinks, even golf clubs in the offseason, hoping that Lewis would lighten up a bit. "He never seemed to remember."
Manning also offered up some insight into his own personality and method of preparation: "If you really want to be a game-changer, become a master observer," he said. "The simple process of focusing on things that others take for granted can be a source of great power and creativity." Even when you're in a hot tub, he could have added.
"Each of us has 24 hours in a day to make an impact," Manning finished. "What will you do with your 24 hours, today, tomorrow, and the day after that?"
Inspiring stuff. Now, who's ready to take on the real world? Just watch out for the Ray Lewises. They'll come at you from out of nowhere.