Indianapolis Colts fans can relax.
In the 10 days since Peyton Manning guided the Denver Broncos to a berth in this year’s Super Bowl with a victory over the New England Patriots, more than a few Colts fans have asked me if a Super Bowl victory would change which team Manning will represent when enshrined into the Hall of Fame.
The simple answer is, no. No way, no how.
That’s not because Manning necessarily loves Indianapolis or the Colts more than he loves Denver or the Broncos. Or even vice versa.
It’s simply because National Football League players are not enshrined as a member of one team or another. Ok, Colts fans, you can let out a collective sigh now.
Many Colts backers worried that if Manning scores a victory Sunday that might cause him to go into the HOF as a Bronco rather than a Colt. If he somehow got two in Denver, several told me they assumed he’d go in representing Denver. After all, nothing means more to Manning professionally than Super Bowl victories.
The muddied relationship between Manning and Colts team owner Jim Irsay, who cut No. 18 following the 2011 season, fueled that speculation.
But unlike Major League Baseball, whose players' HOF replicas are shown wearing a team’s hat, NFL players’ busts in Canton have no such team affiliation.
Obviously, teams take great pride in the accomplishments of individuals who have been a part of their organization. Often individual teams and even the Hall of Fame will list enshrinees according to the team or teams on which they spent a significant period of time.
But an enshrinee is not asked to declare, nor does the Hall of Fame choose, a team under which a new member is enshrined.
For the sake of argument, though, I think no matter how many titles Manning wins in Denver, he’d likely still choose to be enshrined as a Colt.
Indianapolis—Colts fans in particular—love Manning. And his connection to Indianapolis runs deep.
There are some who would say that in Denver, Manning’s never been anything but a hired gun. While in Indianapolis, he’s been something of an adopted son.
Manning cut his professional teeth here. His Peyback Foundation was born here. He has a hospital named for him here.
This is where he got his start. And sure, he was the No. 1 overall draft pick out of the University of Tennessee, but Colts fans embraced him long before he was considered one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time and featured in a bevy of national commercials. He was the face of the Colts long before he was the poster boy for the entire NFL.
Even if he somehow wins twice as many Super Bowls in Denver as he did in Indy, I’m not sure that would tip the scales.
But getting a read on the man who reads defenses better than anyone is no simple task.
I’m sure it would have been a painful decision for Manning. And one I’m certain he’s happy he’ll never have to make.