Peyton Manning’s first appearance in a Colts uniform came at Anderson University. His final training camp snap may come there, too.
Just weeks after signing the four-time MVP to a five-year, $90 million contract, the Colts announced Tuesday they had agreed to a five-year deal that will keep camp at the Division III school northeast of Indianapolis through 2016. It was one of the city’s worst-kept secrets.
“We’re totally elated with this agreement,” Mayor Kris Ockomon said. “We’d heard some whispers that this would happen.”
The announcement came during the Colts’ morning practice session and just hours before the final night practice, traditionally one of the most attended workouts during the 18-day camp.
The deal means team and school officials and city businesses can all start planning ahead rather than worrying about the uncertainty that surrounded the lead-up to this year’s workouts. And it’s a major economic boost to a city that had fallen on hard times after the decline of the automotive industry.
Last year, fans embraced the return of the Colts, calling it the best thing to happen in Anderson in years. Over those 18 days, school officials estimated 85,000 fans came to practice and city officials said it added $6.4 million to the economy. This year’s attendance, school spokesman Chris Williams said, stands at approximately 70,000 with three more practices still to go.
But the Colts like Anderson for another reason.
“It takes away all the guess work,” coach Jim Caldwell said. “Not only that, more so than anything else, they’ve done such a great job around here, the community accepts us extremely well, the crowds are absolutely outstanding, they come and support our guys on a daily basis and the community has just welcomed us with open arms. It’s been a lot of fun.”
For the Colts, it’s also rekindles some fond memories.
After moving from Baltimore in 1984, Indy held training camp at Anderson, about 40 miles northeast of the team’s west side headquarters. During the next 15 years, fans watched Marshall Faulk, Marvin Harrison and Manning all make their NFL debuts.
Then, in 1999, the Colts departed Anderson for better facilities at Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology in Terre Haute, about 75 miles east of the headquarters and about 5 miles east of the Illinois border. But after 11 years in Terre Haute, and a major renovation project at Anderson University, the Colts came back.
Many businesses along Anderson’s main drag have signs welcoming the Colts to town.
And Manning, who acknowledged two weeks ago that his new contract assures his final pro play will come as a Colt, will now have a chance to finish training camp where he started it, too.
Manning has not practiced since camp opened Aug. 1 as he continues to recover from offseason neck surgery. He has, however, been seen working out between practices, including a running session Tuesday. Caldwell has acknowledged Manning is getting closer to being activated off the physically unable to perform list.
On Monday, the Colts even released one of the four quarterbacks on their active roster, Ball State alum Nate Davis, prompting more speculation he could be back on the field before Indy heads home Thursday.
Caldwell isn’t saying when Manning will be back on the field.
“What I can tell you is that he’s rehabbing extremely well and he’s coming along,” he said. “The doctors have him on pace and they’ll make the determination at some point when he can get out (and start) doing something for us.”
While Anderson would love to see Manning practice this week, the announcement that Manning & Co. will be back for five more years was good enough.
“It means a lot for the hotels and businesses in the community,” Williams said. “And it brings increased attention to the city and Anderson University.”