Editorial: Manning and James: A deserving, dynamic duo

Keywords Editorials / Opinion

They came from different worlds. But together they made pro football history and amazingly turned basketball-loving Indiana into a football state.

So it was beautiful symmetry last week when former Indianapolis Colts quarterback Peyton Manning and running back Edgerrin James were inducted together into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Manning was born into football quarterback royalty. His father is NFL great Archie Manning. And the son was expected to follow in his father’s footsteps.

James, a proud Black man from humble Florida beginnings, battled misperceptions throughout his career. As he explained in his Hall of Fame induction speech, people saw his dreadlocks and gold teeth and falsely assumed he had spent time in jail.

He put those misperceptions to rest on the field.

Together with Manning and many other stars over seven seasons, the Colts were 77-35 and made the playoffs six times.

As Mike Chappell of WXIN Channel 59/WTTV Channel 4 reported, that seven-year stretch saw James win two league rushing titles and Manning earn two MVP awards while tossing a record 49 touchdowns in 2004.

And while James was not a member of the Colts’ Super Bowl winning team, he is widely credited with helping to build the organization into a championship contender. Colts owner Jim Irsay even gave James a Super Bowl ring in honor of his contributions.

“So many people told me you can’t have dreads and gold teeth and be accepted in the NFL, but I never listened,” James said in his induction speech. “I always knew who I was: a great football player, a great father, a proud Black man, a lion, and [the dreads were] my mane, which many of those doubters would later discover once they got to know the real me.”

While James and Manning had very different life experiences, their talent and push for excellence brought them together.

“Peyton Manning, we couldn’t have been more different as people,” James noted, “but when it came to football, the way we worked, we connected like brothers.”

Manning, for his part, called James “one of my favorite teammates of all time” and said it was a thrill to be reunited with him in the Hall of Fame.

Together, James, Manning and the Colts raised Indianapolis’ visibility, helping boost everything from sports bragging rights to tourism to economic development.

Their success gave us swagger and Lucas Oil Stadium, with its trademark retractable roof.

But, most of all, their teamwork showed what can be accomplished when we embrace our differences, strive for excellence and stay true to ourselves.

As James said: “Proudly represent the real you. Follow your dream, aim high, and dream the life you want to live. And to all those who’ve been judged prematurely because of their appearance, the way they speak, where they come from, and, in the minds of many, should be locked up in prison, I represent us.”•


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