Part II of my no X’s-and-O’s interview with Indianapolis Colts quarterback Peyton Manning:
Benner: Conseco Fieldhouse could be called the House That Reggie Miller Built. Obviously, a great number of people have been involved in the new stadium. Yet it could be known as the House That Peyton Built. How do you feel about your role in elevating the franchise to the point where the stadium became a necessity?
Manning: It gets me excited. That we can have a state-of-the-art facility, that we could host a Super Bowl and hopefully one that we’d be playing in, I take pride in that. My job here ultimately is to play quarterback and to move my offense into the end zone every time. But there’s a lot more that comes with that and I take it seriously.
Did I want a stadium? Absolutely. I want to play in it. I want to throw the first touchdown there. But a number of people contributed to it …
Benner: If the Colts had been struggling, it would have been a much tougher sell.
Manning: You carry that with you. We need to win this game or that game because we want to win every game. But (last season) we knew we needed to be good, to contend, to take the next step. Same thing this year. And we want to keep being a good product for the fans.
Benner: Given your high profile and your contract, the onus falls heavily on you.
Manning: I take my current job so seriously because I do get paid a lot of money, and I feel so obligated, so responsible to Mr. Irsay, to Bill (Polian) who drafted me, to Coach Dungy and my teammates, and to the fans. It goes back to when I was drafted and the first question I got was, “What are you going to do with the money?” Well, my reply wasn’t scripted when I said, “I plan to earn it.” Then people say, “Can you possibly earn what you’re being paid?” Well, that’s my goal.
Some people kind of make fun of me when they say, “All he does is watch film” and, “He doesn’t have a life outside of football.” Well, that’s not true, but I kind of want to tell those people, “Y’all ought to take your jobs as seriously as I take mine.”
Benner: How long can you keep it up?
Manning: I hope to play about another 10 years. That’s my goal. That would make 16 to 17 years. My Dad played for 15 years and I have more respect for him every day. Fifteen years on teams that weren’t so good and maybe didn’t give him great protection. I admire him for his toughness. But I give (the game) the respect it deserves. It is serious. Like when Jim Mora got fired. That was hard for me. If we don’t go 6-10 that year, if I don’t throw this ball or that ball, maybe he doesn’t get fired. You realize people’s jobs are on the line.
People’s moods are on the line. Fans come up to me and say, “Man, that loss really hurt me,” and I look at ’em and go, “How do you think I felt?” Nobody hurts worse than I do. But I like fans who hurt when we lose, … that means they’re into it.
Benner: What do you like to hear from fans?
Manning: When people say, “I like the way you play the game.” Johnny Unitas said that to me one time. That means a lot of things: your command of the huddle, somewhat calling your own plays, no showboatin’.
And I like it when people come to me and tell me where they were during a game. “I was in the stands in Kansas City,” or, “I was in my hotel room in Los Angeles when y’all came back to beat Tampa.” I can just picture that fan going crazy all by himself in the hotel watching that game. And if that fan had a tough day that day and that put a smile on his face, well, that kind of hits home for me.
Benner: Do you ever tire of being Peyton Manning and all that goes with it?
Manning: I’ve learned to really enjoy my off-season. You do have to Get Away, capital G, capital A. The season is always on your mind. It never leaves me. How are we going to get better? When you’re in the season, that next week is right on you. There’s never any real time to relax. That next game always feels like it’s just minutes away.
Benner is associate director of communications for the Indianapolis Convention & Visitors Association and a former sports columnist for The Indianapolis Star. His column appears weekly.To comment on this column, go to IBJ Forum at www.ibj.comor send e-mail to email@example.com.