Peyton Manning was a natural on the football field, but he also has earned a gold-jacket reputation as a performer away from the field, too.
Think about the many commercials, the "Saturday Night Live" appearance and the ESPN series he hosts. The man has a gift for gab that most people can be jealous of.
And despite it being the most anticipated speech of the night, Manning wasn't a letdown during his Pro Football Hall of Fame acceptance on Sunday night in Canton, Ohio.
Prior to taking the stage, Manning kept his composure. He reportedly was editing his speech notes only minutes before it was his turn to speak. This year's inductees were asked to keep their comments very short because of time constraints with two classes going in this year after the 2020 ceremony was canceled.
Manning started off by making a joke about that, noting how he'd yell "hurry, hurry!" to his center with the Colts, Jeff Saturday, when the play clock was running down. This speech was a "hurry, hurry" affair, Manning noted, but he snuck in a fun joke about Ray Lewis' record 38-minute speech three years ago.
"Ray Lewis just finished giving his speech that he started in 2018," Manning deadpanned.
Of course there was a Tom Brady line
And yes, Manning didn't wait long to mention his friend and rival, Tom Brady, who was in attendance. Even if the crowd made Manning wait just a bit after Brady's name was mentioned.
"Tom Brady ... by the time he's inducted to the Hall of Fame," Manning started, followed by a throng of boos, likely from the fans of the Colts, Broncos and, well, just about every other team not named the Patriots.
(Brady clearly heard the boos and turned around in his seat to the crowd with a smile and a few words that could not be made out. We can't wait to hear from the lip reader on that one.)
Manning eventually finished his Brady joke.
"In his first year of eligibility in 2035," Manning said, "he'll only have time to post his acceptance speech to his Instagram account."
That means Brady will retire in 2030, get it? That one got some hearty laughs.
Manning got emotional talking about his dad and the game
Manning also found time for emotion, heart, history and depth in his short speech.
He said the Hall of Fame busts speak to each other and that they run plays at night when no one is around. Manning name-dropped about a dozen Hall of Famers from just about every generation, from Barry Sanders and Michael Irvin, to Deacon Jones and Steve Largent.
Manning loves his history, and he made sure to honor as many legends as he could. He also gave a tip of cap to as many of his former Colts and Broncos teammates as he could, time permitting.
Then came dad. Archie Manning was no typical father as a former NFL quarterback, and everyone knows the story of how Peyton, Eli and Cooper Manning learned the game from him in the family backyard.
And Peyton had trouble holding back the emotion when he spoke of what Archie, his Hall of Fame presenter, has meant to him.
"My favorite quarterback, my hero, my dad" is how Peyton introduced Archie.
"Dad, there's no one I would rather have or be more appropriate to welcome me to the stage than you," Manning said while choking up and fighting back the emotions.
Peyton also showed emotion and humor while introducing his brothers, his mother ("the most loving mother who could also break down a Cover 2 defense better than any NFL quarterback"), his wife and children.
Manning also paid homage to two of his former NFL assistant coaches, Howard Mudd and Greg Knapp, who died earlier this year.
"May they both rest in peace," Manning said.
Even as the Oscars-style music started rolling, signaling that Manning's time was up, he kept going without breaking stride. The rest of the speech oozed Manning. His love of the game was on display when he talked about coaching his son's flag football team and how he never planned to be away from the game.
"I don't know about you, but I am not done with this game," he said. "I never will be. I am committing to ensuring its future, and I hope you join me in that commitment."
Was he campaigning to replace commissioner Roger Goodell one day? Don't laugh. Manning takes this stuff seriously, even amid the one-liners.
He finished by reprising a line he used at his Broncos retirement: "Thank you, and God bless football."
It killed then just like it did Sunday night.
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