The Big Mac Blog

Fort Worth coach and friend celebrates the end of Peyton Manning’s career

Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning speaks during his retirement announcement in Denver on Monday. He won two Super Bowls and 5 MVP awards in an 18-year NFL career.
Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning speaks during his retirement announcement in Denver on Monday. He won two Super Bowls and 5 MVP awards in an 18-year NFL career. AP

Fort Worth Country Day football coach Frank Gendusa saw Peyton Manning two weeks ago in New Orleans and at the time he had no inkling whether his former pupil was ready to quit.

“We spoke for 10 or 15 minutes and we never brought it up,” Gendusa said Monday.

Gendusa has known the Manning family decades, and he was attending a reception at Manning’s old high school with the entire crew and about 50 other people.

Gendusa, who has been at Country Day for 11 years, was Peyton’s offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at Newman High School in New Orleans. Gendusa was the head coach when Eli Manning was the quarterback and he also coached the oldest Manning son, Cooper.

On Monday, Peyton Manning officially retired from the NFL.

“I’m not surprised. I think he knows what he can still do,” Gendusa said. “There is a part of me that says he is so competitive he’s going to try to play one more year. He’s also a smart man. He’s making this decision and no one else’s.

“I’d like to take credit that I taught him how to throw but that’s silly. I just gave him an opportunity and I hoped I didn’t screw it up. He was sitting across from a Pro Bowler every night at dinner. He was self driven. I love that family. I was fortunate to coach all three boys. That was a nice experience. That’s a great family and I wish him well.”

Manning did everything a football player could possibly do; where he ranks among the best quarterbacks of all-time is merely a matter of 1 or 1A. Manning may not be John Elway or Joe Montana or Tom Brady, but what Manning meant to one community is greater than those three combined.

Having been raised in Indianapolis, I have a good sense of what Peyton Manning meant to that city and the state of Indiana.

Aside from one dropped Hail Mary that would have sent the Colts to the Super Bowl in 1996, that team had been mostly garbage until he arrived in 1998.

However big his impact was on the field for his franchise what he did to his community was of equal or greater significance.

He was the best player in the most popular sports league in North America who was playing for a smaller-market team that does not have the attraction like an Empire State Building, the ocean, Lake Shore Drive, Golden Gate Bridge, etc. It’s Indy, and their thing is is that it’s a good place to raise a family.

Middle Earth markets, save for Chicago, don’t have the national cache or ca-ching of a Miami, LA, New York or San Francisco; when a national house-hold brand happens to come from a small city, they can lift an entire region.

Peyton Manning was Indy’s, and he was a positive in their life.

It’s no different than what Roger Staubach meant to Dallas-Fort Worth, Brett Favre to Wisconsin, or LeBron James to Cleveland.

Since Manning arrived, the Colts and the city of Indianapolis’ collective image changed. He made the Colts a winner, and he helped give that city a new national identity that was positive. He won MVP trophies. He won a Super Bowl. He was on funny commercials. He hosted Saturday Night Live. And he lived “right down the street,” even if he didn’t.

Without Manning, the city may not approve funding for a new football stadium. The city would never have hosted a Super Bowl. And there is no Peyton Manning Children’s Hospital.

Even after the Colts released Manning in 2012 so they could draft Andrew Luck, he remains Indy’s even as he won games in Denver.

His playing career is over and while he retired as a Bronco his eternal legacy is in Indianapolis.