As a native of Indianapolis, I’ve been lucky enough to witness my entire city flourish because of a talented, humble, generous person.
That person is Peyton Manning.
Few athletes have had as important of an influence on a city as Peyton Manning has.
The former Indianapolis Colts quarterback and current Denver Broncos quarterback is about to head into what appears to be the last game of his career — next Sunday’s Super Bowl.
Due to recent health issues, retirement seems to be the imminent option for Manning.
While I could write an article congratulating him on his legendary athletic accomplishments throughout his NFL career, I’d instead like to thank him for what he’s done for the city I love.
Indianapolis was not always a hub of great sports teams, world-renowned medical facilities and economic prosperity.
Before Manning joined the Colts in 1998, Indy was just another state capitol in the Midwest.
Nobody expected this rookie would become an Indianapolis hero and legend by simply playing football.
In the span of 13 years, Manning led his team to the Super Bowl twice, earned a victory and set several records within the NFL.
Of course, great sports teams lead to plenty of incoming revenue to the city, and Indianapolis used it to its advantage.
Tourists came in to watch the Colts play, and Hoosiers found themselves living in a city people wanted to visit.
I got to watch the city grow rapidly as I got older.
Suddenly, there were more big-name concerts and museums I never imagined would be there.
To think Peyton Manning leading his Colts was responsible for so much of it was, in a sense, unbelievable.
However, Manning’s contribution to the community won the hearts of all Hoosiers, including myself.
During his many years in Indy, he became known for donating significant amounts of money and spending time in the city.
His frequent charity eventually led to St. Vincent Hospital naming their children’s hospital in his honor.
The Peyton Manning Children’s Hospital still has pictures of his friendly face around the state-of-the-art grounds.
Many people I know, including myself, have been patients there at one point or another, so it’s easy to see how far-reaching Manning’s generosity has been.
The funny thing about professional athletes is they have a choice.
They can make millions, hoard it away in their mansions in the city they work in and easily pack up and leave to their new job in a new place.
Or these athletes can become leaders in their community and give back to the people who gave them a chance — the people who came to see them play.
Peyton was not just an example for all of us. He was one of us.
He cried and thanked Indianapolis for everything when he moved to Denver in 2012. We thanked him right back.
Whatever Peyton has in store next, it will be nearly impossible to compare to the influence he has had on all of us in Indy.
Once a Hoosier, always a Hoosier.
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