The Colts will unveil a statue of Manning at Lucas Oil Stadium on Saturday afternoon, and he’ll have his number 18 retired Sunday

By Peter King
October 04, 2017 05:30 PM

For as omnipresent as Peyton Manning is on TV these days, he sure knows how to disappear from the public eye otherwise. Other than occasional appearances to watch his beloved Tennessee Volunteers (he was honored at halftime of the Vols game Saturday), the formerly uber-public Manning has been mostly private since his retirement from football 19 months ago, turning into a carpooling dad for his twins and a part-time flag football assistant coach in the Denver suburb where he lives.

But this weekend in Indianapolis, Manning will come back into the light for awhile. The Colts will unveil a statue of Manning at Lucas Oil Stadium on Saturday afternoon, and he’ll have his number 18 retired Sunday and his name installed in the Colts’ ring of honor at halftime of the Colts-Niners game.

In advance of the weekend ceremony, Manning and I spoke for 33 minutes this week for The MMQB Podcast With Peter King, which also will be available for download via iTunes on Wednesday. The early part of the pod is about his life as a Colt, and the meaning of this weekend, having a statue of him unveiled at the ripe old age of 41. Later, we get into his current life.

“I am not 100 percent comfortable with all of this, but I’m extremely grateful to [owner] Jim Irsay and his generosity,” Manning said from Denver. “I will admit I’ve gotten a couple of physicals recently, just to check my health, because I agree: Most people aren’t alive to see something like this.”

Ezra Shaw/Getty

Regarding the headlines of Manning’s life now:

• He said he never had a second thought about retiring and wasn’t tempted to return, not even last year when Ryan Tannehill went down in Miami and close friend and Dolphins coach Adam Gase texted, apparently to gauge his interest in returning to play. “I’m out,” he said, definitively.

• He’s interested one day in exploring running a team, the way John Elway has taken the reins of the Broncos. But “it is just not the right place for me right now,” he said.

• His twins, Marshall and Mosley, are in first grade, and he said much of his life is centered around speaking engagements, traveling with wife Ashley, and the twins’ flag football and soccer games and practices.

• Owning a team doesn’t sound like it interests him. Running one does — just not right now.

• When I asked if he was concerned about long-term effects of head trauma or his health later in life, he said he feels “like I am competing every day against my health—that’s my new opponent … That’s important to me, to stay healthy, so I can be around for my kids and my family and see lots of things I still want to see.”

• Manning said he spent “several days” with Rams coach Sean McVay “talking football, talking philosophy” in the spring. But he said he spent several days with a few teams in the past year or so, even sitting out of camera view monitoring one team’s draft weekend last April, just to learn the business of it.

• This was not on the podcast, but Manning running for political office has become a hot topic since he retired. Some in Tennessee would like to see Manning become a politician, but he has told me he has “zero interest” in running for public office.

• For a while, at least, it sounds like you might see Manning mostly as a TV pitchman, and not in very many other places.

“I’m still on TV a lot doing commercials,” he said. “I apologize to all the people out there who are tired of seeing me on commercials.”

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Most people in football, when Manning’s name comes up, predict he’ll end up following in John Elway’s footsteps. Listening to Manning, that sounds like it appeals to him too — but the other obligations he has now conflict with the time it would take to run a team. Reading between the lines, it sounds like if and when he does come back, he’d want it to be with a team with the right structure for him to be a difference-maker.

“It certainly could be a possibility,” Manning said. “I know John didn’t take his job with the Broncos until he was 50 years old. He had stopped playing for 12 years at that point … I’m 41 years old and it’s my second season out, so people like to make that comparison but it is such an individual thing.

“I believe in staying close to the game. I went to the combine last year and met with some GMs and some owners to pick their brains on different sides of things. I sat in with a team during the NFL draft this year. I stayed off camera, but I was able to sit in and watch. Often times if I am speaking at a certain event, I will stop by that NFL team or college team and go talk some football.

“But I know what that job entails, and that is an all-in job. That is a do-not-put-your-phone-down-ever job. It’s a 24-7-365 days a year job. Because I know what that commitment is and what that job entails, it is just not the right place for me right now. I really am enjoying what I’m doing. As far as what will happen in the next few years I can’t really say, but like I said, I will always be close to the game.”

He didn’t rule out ownership but said: “I keep looking for that $2.5 billion in my pocket. Just don’t see it. Derek [Jeter, just named one of the new Miami Marlins’ owners] will be great in that role. I have such great respect for him. I’m happy for him. … I enjoy teaching football. I love our football camp [the Manning Passing Academy]. I love going to these colleges and answering questions. I sat down at the Chicago Bears with Mitch Trubisky and he had some questions for me. I love paying it forward if anybody has any questions … just probably not in the coaching world. An executive role of some sort, who knows, it is a possibility but it’s all pretty futuristic.”

Since he walked away in March 2016, Manning expected he might miss it more. Friends in football told him he would. But even when Gase reached out via text when Tannehill got hurt last December, it didn’t tempt him. Manning, as you recall, struggled mightily with arm strength down the stretch of the Super Bowl-winning season in 2015.

Maybe he just had enough of football. Whatever, he never felt the pull to go back.

“Adam Gase reached out to me [when Tannehill got hurt last season],” Manning said. “He said, ‘Look Peyton, I know what I am going to get asked in my press conference tomorrow. There’s no doubt they are going to ask me. Just tell me what you’d like me to say.’ And this was via text, and I said, ‘Adam, you tell the media that yes, I probably could come back and play and there is no doubt that we would go to the Super Bowl,’ … I’m being sarcastic on that … ‘but there is no way I could be at practice every day and still fulfill my carpool duties for my two 5-year-old twins. So I’m out. I had a lot of people tell me how much I was going to miss it and be anxious and miserable, and … it is such an individual feeling, and that was just not true.”

Manning has buried himself in his new life. “My kids are playing flag football and soccer so I go to those practices and games,” he said. “It’s important to me to be a part of those and to be around. I am a volunteer assistant coach on our kids’ flag football team. Last year they wanted me to be a full-time coach and I said, ‘Coach, let me tell you, you don’t have any pass plays. I cannot be involved with a team that has no pass plays.’ So I got them throwing the ball a lot more this year.”

This part of our chat was not surprising: He said, “I feel busier than I ever have.” Manning was good at football. He’s not good at sitting around.

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