Mac Engel

Not even Peyton Manning can escape his past

No athlete in the past 20 years has worked harder to cultivate a prettier, aw-shucks image than Peyton Manning.
No athlete in the past 20 years has worked harder to cultivate a prettier, aw-shucks image than Peyton Manning. AP

Around the time Peyton Manning was in the Fort Worth Club to accept the Davey O’Brien Award in 1998, he was finishing up an embarrassing legal matter that roughly 20 years later would “haunt” him.

Other Davey O’Brien winners have had “stuff” — Jameis Winston, Vince Young, Johnny Manziel, to name a few — but Manning is the last person from this crew we would consider to have a stain on his résumé.

Peyton, welcome to the club.

The winner of the 2015 O’Brien Award, which was handed out Monday night to Clemson’s Deshaun Watson, should take notice: In this day and age, there is no statute of limitations to condemn dumb behavior and the actions of your family are apparently fair game, too.

The point of this last weekend in both sports and politics is that, if you are famous, you’re going down by any means necessary — even if you are a sainted Manning.

Peyton Manning finished second in the Heisman Trophy balloting in 1997 (losing to Michigan’s Charles Woodson), but won the Davey O’Brien Award given to the nation’s top quarterback.

Kids, if you want to be famous, you better clean it up right now or just be prepared that your dirtiest laundry will be used by others to define you.

Kids, if you want to become President of the United States, you will need to make up your mind by your seventh birthday. Second grade at the latest.

These days, it’s best to have a PR firm on retainer for when it hits the fan; that way you can have a press release ready to drop at moment’s notice that says you are sorry, that “it was a long time ago” and that you have learned from your past mistakes and are moving forward.

Over the weekend, a report was released by The New York Daily News that shed some more light on an incident from 1996 when Manning was in college at the University of Tennessee.

Around the time this story “re-broke,” Republican presidential hopeful Donald Trump was crucifying fellow GOP hopeful Jeb Bush, not for own his policies, but rather those of his brother, George W. Bush.

There is officially no shame and before too long it will be acceptable to go after a person’s momma and their kids, too.

It no longer matters if the story has merit, it is acceptable to just blurt it out.

The Indianapolis Colts made Peyton Manning their No. 1 pick — and first overall — in the 1998 NFL Draft.

According to The Daily News report, which was not new and did not request a comment from either Manning or his representatives, the quarterback “mooned” a Vols female trainer and may have pressed his private parts in her face.

For a Manning, especially the image-conscious and image-savvy Peyton, this equals the pope dropping F-bombs during Mass.

After reading the lengthy reports by both The New York Daily News and a follow-up piece by Sports Illustrated, it’s apparent Manning was dumb, didn’t like the trainer and took typical guy’s sophomoric locker room humor too far.

If he actually did this, he should have been dumped. That warrants serious punishment.

This story had been reported on at various points over the past 20 years, but it never gained much national traction for a variety of reasons.

No. 1. Everybody loves Peyton. No athlete in the past 20 years has worked harder to cultivate a prettier, aw-shucks image than Peyton Manning. The details of this story do not fit his image, which does not mean they are not true.

No. 2. Social media did not exist when this story hit. We live in a react first, ask later society.

No. 3. The settlement was peculiar. The plaintiff agreed to leave her job and in return accepted $300,000 and several pieces of University of Tennessee championship paraphernalia.

5 MVP awards for Peyton Manning — the most of any player.

That’s it?

This is the Manning family, no shortage of funds there, and the plaintiff is so upset and wants in return for her pain $300K — at least one third went to lawyers and another chunk to the government — plus some UT hats, T-shirts and a ring?

If you go after the Mannings, and you are going to sacrifice your job in the process, you go large or you don’t go at all.

Over the years, this story has been used to besmirch Manning as an arrogant, control-freak egomaniac who is not that much different than other overly-enabled jocks or entertainers. Most people on that level have that trait; Manning just hid his well.

I was raised in Indianapolis, which is not exactly New York City, and for years my family and friends would relay stories about Manning’s personal life that never saw the light of day because it was just idle talk and no one wanted to prove it because he was Peyton Manning.

Do I think there is some dirt on Manning he does not want revealed? Absolutely.

Do I think this lawsuit had merit and he crossed a line with that trainer? Absolutely.

Do I think any of this will prevent Manning from having a successful post-NFL career as a broadcaster or anything else? Absolutely not.

That this story is out again is merely another example of the media, or people, using whatever is there to throw at a person because they can. And we accept it.

Deshaun Watson, congrats on the Davey O’Brien Award, you have been sufficiently warned that, if you succeed as an NFL quarterback, whatever you did as a third grader will be held against you for the rest of your life.

Listen to Mac Engel every Tuesday and Thursday on Shan & RJ from 5:30-10 a.m. on 105.3 The Fan.

Related stories from Fort Worth Star Telegram

  Comments