Here in Tennessee, Peyton Manning is much more than a future Hall of Fame quarterback for a pro team three states and half a continent away. Because of his unforgettable, record-breaking time playing for our flagship university and the classy way he continues to represent it, Peyton is a Tennessee legend as much or more than he is a Colts or Broncos one, and many of us have rooted for him his entire career, wherever he is, almost as much as we root for the Vols.
So needless to say, I was ecstatic over Sunday's Super Bowl win, if only to seal the legacy of one of, if not THE greatest quarterback to ever play the game. Yeah, I know the defenses on both sides were the real story, but playing sidekick instead of Sheriff for once and letting the team win it for you almost makes up for all those times in his career where Manning carried the load and came up short because of bad luck, errant kickers, or soft defenses.
Much, of course, has been written about the Broncos, Peyton Manning, and the Super Bowl since the game ended, but I'd like to tackle the topic from a different angle, one from which all of us working stiffs can hopefully relate. What lessons can we all learn in our jobs from Peyton Manning and his last, crazy, up-and-down season that culminated in winning Super Bowl 50? Here are just a few that come to mind.
Even when hard times come, don't give up - On November 15, Peyton Manning, arguably the greatest quarterback to don a helmet in this land or any other, threw four interceptions against the Kansas City Chiefs, a team that had never beaten him before, and was ultimately benched in favor of longtime backup Brock Osweiler. He spent the next several weeks rehabbing from a foot injury, uncertain if he would even get to start again for the Broncos even if physically well. Many in the press wondered if he would ever throw a football again. We all know the rest of the story. Far from giving up, Peyton kept working and eventually got another shot, in the last half of the last regular-season game, and led his team to a #1 seed clinching victory.
In the working world, there are all kinds of lessons to learn here. Peyton Manning, the G.O.A.T. (Greatest Of All Time), a guy who had started every game of a his career since his freshman year at UT, was essentially demoted. He began that last regular-season game, the one where he eventually got to come back in, as a backup to the guy who had been HIS backup.That had to have been humbling, even hurtful, and yet we never got the sense that he felt like he was beneath the role. All of us should handle workplace adversity with the same grace, yet keep plugging away because its the plugging that will allow another opportunity to succeed, whenever and however that might be.
Mind over matter - When Peyton Manning was drafted #1 in 1998, there were some who felt like Washington State's Ryan Leaf should have received the honor. Leaf, after all, could throw the ball farther and arguably had better physical skills than Peyton. In the end, however, Manning was drafted first and Leaf second, and Leaf's "mad skillz" eventually led him to a prison sentence while Peyton made an almost two-decade career out of using his mind, and his arm, to carve up opposing defenses like soft butter.
The working-world transition here is actually good news for us. For most of us, physical skills mean very little. We'll never be pro athletes and, other than keeping in reasonable shape to avoid a middle-aged heart attack, we'll never need our bodies to perform in any comparable way. In the working world, whether you're just getting started or have been at it for decades, your mind will always be your greatest asset. Use it to make a living for yourself and your employer. Use it to make smart decisions that will benefit you and those around you.
Playing second fiddle isn't so bad - You could see it coming even the last few games of the 2014-15 season, the wobbly throws, the interceptions, the lowered statistics. Peyton Manning's physical skills were diminishing, and with it his ability to impose his will on opposing defenses. (It's almost as if John Elway knew what eventually happens to quarterbacks when they start pushing forty.) Enter Von Miller and the tenacious Broncos defense, the defense that wrecked the NFL and the league's hottest offense in the Super Bowl. Manning didn't have to throw for 300 yards or even for a touchdown on Sunday. In essence, he just had to hang on and keep from losing the game. And his second Lombardi trophy spoke volumes about whether there's anything at all wrong with that.
In the working world, we all have a role to play, and all roles contribute to the greater good. Whether you're a janitor or the CEO, you contribute to the success of the company and your best efforts are both valued and needed.
Shine where you are planted - After multiple neck surgeries in 2011, Peyton Manning didn't necessarily want to leave Indianapolis for Denver or any other team in 2012, but that's the way the business works and, OK, Andrew Luck was on the draft board. Instead of moping about what might have been, Peyton lit up the AFC from the Mile High City, setting even more records than he did before and equaling his Super Bowl accomplishments in a fraction of the time.
Where ever we are, whatever we are doing, we should all make the most of our situation and shine where God has planted us, even if it's not where we originally envisioned we would be.
Be a good teammate - When asked what he wanted to be remembered for, Peyton Manning didn't mention stats, or wins, or Super Bowls - instead he said that he wanted to be remembered for being a good teammate. And to no surprise, his teammates felt exactly the same way about him and wanted to win for him as much as for themselves.
Accomplishments never happen in a vacuum. We are nothing without the people around us. We'll never play in the NFL, but the ability to work as a cohesive part of a team is one of the most important skills we will ever develop.
Don't make any rash decisions - As expected, every interviewer who got a chance to talk to Peyton wanted to know if this was his last game. Sticking to his old coach Tony Dungy's advice, Manning declined to let emotion rule the moment. This was a decision he would make at the right time, after thoughtful contemplation, and after conversations with the right people.
In a sound bite, social-media driven society where it seems like everything is done on the fly and at the speed of light, slowing it down and making logical, thoughtful decisions is great advice for us all!
Watching my favorite player finally end his career on such a high note is bittersweet indeed, but I'm thankful for the memories and especially for the reminder that, occasionally, nice guys do finish first.