Colts GM Chris Ballard has regularly stated that his philosophy is that you build teams through the draft. That makes this time of year critical to the Colts’ long term success. So in the lead up to this year’s draft, I wanted to do something to honor some of the meaningful draft picks that the Colts have made in their time in Indianapolis. These players have helped to tell the story of the Colts franchise we love. Every day leading up to the draft, we’ll drop a story about a different player from Indianapolis Colts draft history.
No Colts player has been as influential to the franchise, or to the game of football as a whole, as Peyton Manning. Manning was the first pick that Bill Polian made as the Colts’ new general manager, and was chosen over Ryan Leaf, who had gained traction as a potential first overall pick at quarterback in the 1998 off-season. Manning locked himself in as Polian’s pick after he famously told the GM:
“If you take me, I promise you we will win a championship. If you don’t, I promise I’ll come back and kick your ass.”
Manning was a relentless preparer. While many have been labeled as the “first guy in, last guy out” or the “hardest worker on the team,” Manning was the epitome of both. His competitive nature pushed him to always be more prepared and more ready than his competition. What is more, he demanded this level of commitment from the team around him, and because of this, pushed the offensive weapons on the team to be the best versions of themselves.
A true field general, when Manning took the field he was able to process everything going on at an elite level. He could read defenses and manipulate them with ease, making changes at the line of scrimmage to put the offense in the best place to find success.
Despite the fact that he didn’t have the greatest arm in the league, it never mattered. Manning could make every throw he needed to, and led the team to an unmatched era of dominance in the regular season from 2000-2010. The Colts had just one losing season in that time, and from 2003-2009, they never had fewer than 12 wins.
As a Colt, Manning went to 11 Pro Bowls, was named First-Team All-Pro 7 times and Second-Team All-Pro twice, and was named the NFL MVP in 4 different seasons. He is one of the most decorated players in NFL history, and will undoubtedly become a first-ballot Hall of Famer next year when he becomes eligible for it.
The Colts went to two Super Bowls in Manning’s time in Indianapolis, winning one. The Peyton Manning-Era Colts are credited with taking an Indianapolis fan base that generally preferred basketball to football, and turning them into a football city.
No player has ever impacted the Colts organization in the way that Peyton Manning did, and it is very likely that none ever will. Inspiring countless children and pets to be given his namesake, and many a schoolyard kid to pretend to be him in a game of pickup football, Manning changed both the culture and the skyline of Indianapolis for the better.
What is your favorite memory of Manning’s time in Indy?