Peyton Manning: A Biography by Lew Freedman

October 1, 2012
By Dan Federico BRONZE, Auburn, New York
Dan Federico BRONZE, Auburn, New York
1 article 0 photos 0 comments

Football is America’s game. Its nonstop action and desire to achieve greatness defines the American spirit. The game’s best players and most memorable moments have made football in my opinion the most cherished game in America. But what defines a great football player.This is a topic that comes up on television stations such as ESPN and NFL Network seemingly every 24 hours. But you can’t truly define a great player without first analyzing statistics for that player’s position. For a running back, it might be “How many rushing yards can you tally in a season?”, and for a wide receiver, it could be how many touchdowns you caught. But perhaps the most important position in the game of football, especially in today’s game, is the quarterback. The legacies of great quarterbacks are timeless, as Johnny Unitas, Otto Graham, Y.A. Tittle, and of course Joe Namath are still seen as the greatest of all time. But the number one thing that can define a great quarterback is how many Super bowl Championships he has won. For one man in particular, that feat was accomplished not too long ago. This man, #18 and the current Denver Broncos signal caller, is Peyton Manning.

I recently read a detailed biography on Manning (titled: Peyton Manning: A Biography), written by Lew Freedman in 2009. Any information given after that would be based on my common knowledge of one of my personal favorite players, Peyton Manning. In the book’s opening pages, Freedman provides a unique timeline that begins with Peyton’s birth on March 24, 1976 (exactly 20 years before me). To summarize the first few chapters, Freedman takes us through Peyton’s childhood. He was the middle child of former New Orleans Saints QB Archie Manning. Naturally, Peyton was enthusiastic about football from the day he could walk. In fact, one day Peyton discovered some of his dad’s old college tapes and he studied them religiously for years. By the time he was in high school at Isidore Newman High School of Louisiana, Peyton was already showing signs of a mature passer.

When Peyton reached the varsity level in his sophomore year, he was accompanied by his close older brother Cooper, who was a senior at the time (If you are wondering about little brother Eli, the current NY Giants quarterback, he was still a baby at this point). The two combined for 73 completions, 1,250 yards, and 13 touchdowns. The duo led their school to the state semi finals where their prolific run came to an abrupt halt. In order for the two brothers to play together again, they would have to hope and pray that the both got into the same college. Cooper, took after his dad and attended the University of Mississippi at Oxford. Every college scout across the nation thought that Peyton would follow suit, but after Cooper suffered a traumatic injury, Peyton opened his mind to other options.

Peyton shocked the world of college football when he committed to the University of Tennessee in Knoxville. Peyton even said, that he would have attended Ole Miss, had Cooper not gone down. As a Tennessee Volunteer, Peyton was not expected to start in his freshman year. But on the first drive that year, the starter tore his ACL and Peyton got his chance. Unfortunately, he handed the ball off three times and jogged off the field. He did not return to that game, later a loss to UCLA. Manning’s real first chance came after Tennessee fell to 1-3 under their quarterback Helton. They triumphed over teams like Arkansas and Alabama under the freshman star, as the biography will get into exciting detail on how Peyton came to win these games.

Peyton would stick around for all four years of college, and go on to be the statistical leader in major passing categories in Tennessee history. Peyton capped off his exciting college career after finishing his senior season 10-1. But they couldn’t stop Nebraska in the Orange Bowl, as they lost 42-17. However Manning finished 2nd in Heisman voting and received 1st team All- American honors. The University of Tennessee would retire his number 16 jersey in honor of his 4 year efforts.

Enter the 1998 National Football League Draft. Peyton’s dreams of becoming an NFL quarterback would finally be coming true. It didn’t take long for the commissioner to call his name as Peyton Manning was selected 1st overall to the Indianapolis Colts. He had high expectations entering the league, and signs of this pressure could be seen in his play. Peyton was effective in scoring touchdowns, as he passed for an NFL Rookie record 26 TD passes. However, he looked almost reminiscent of Brett Favre when he finished the season with a league high 28 interceptions. Though the team’s record of 3-13 didn’t show it, Peyton Manning had shown glimpses of incredible talent and extreme potential.

Throughout the next 14 years of his still growing career, Peyton Manning would endure tough seasons, bad losses (including one to his dad’s old team in Super bowl XLIV) and even a neck surgery that would bring his 2011 season to a halt. To highlight Manning’s accomplishments over the many years of his NFL career, perhaps the most outstanding would be the 4 MVP awards. The next most extravagant achievement would be his lone Super bowl victory in 2006 over the Chicago Bears. In this historic, and frankly a crappy day considering the weather, Peyton Manning threw for 247 yards completing 25 of 38 passes with 1 TD and 1 INT. He was the game’s MVP. One final achievement I will share is the tying of Dan Marino’s record of 63 games with over 300 yards passing. After 2011 however, the team that drafted Manning would let him go.

Even though Lew Freedman only takes us up to Manning’s 2008 season, he does an incredible job of describing the exciting career of Peyton Manning. His interpretation of the career and life of one of the game’s most prolific passers is truly a page turner for any football fan. I would definitely recommend this book to anybody interested in learning more about football or anybody who follows Peyton Manning. Peyton is still going strong with the Denver Broncos and plays on a regular basis. He may not have many years left, but Peyton’s career is one of the most memorable and most exciting of any player in history.

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