Peyton Manning retires from football: "I love the game…I will miss it." – The Denver Post

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Peyton Manning stood in the hallway outside of the Broncos auditorium Monday afternoon, white plastic sheets hanging from the ceiling and drills shrieking in the background. The Broncos are renovating their locker room at Dove Valley.

It will change.

And it will never be the same now that Peyton Manning has left the building. Manning announced his retirement, halting several times and fighting back tears during a 15-minute speech that featured heartfelt thanks to his family, teammates, friends and coaches.

“I revere football,” Manning said. “I love the game. So you don’t have to wonder if I will miss it. Absolutely. Absolutely I will.”

Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning.

Manning tilted in this direction for weeks. However, he promised to clear his head before making a decision after becoming the oldest quarterback to win a Super Bowl in the Broncos’ 24-10 victory over Carolina. Clarity arrived after two weeks of deliberation following a vacation in Mexico, a hunting excursion and multiple speaking engagements. He began reading voice memos into his phone, sending them to a friend to organize and search for synonyms for the words “great and special.” He made up his mind Saturday, then texted and talked to friends, teammates and opponents, including New England’s Tom Brady, asking only that they keep the news quiet.

“And no one let it out,” said former Broncos and Colts receiver Brandon Stokley, who attended the news conference Monday. “That tells you how much he is respected.”

When Manning stepped to the podium at 11:23 a.m., buoyed by the support of his wife, Ashley, and twins, Mosley and Marshall, he had purposely read his speech only a few times. He wanted it to be raw, emotional, especially when mentioning his late grandfather, who beamed with pride when his favorite announcers, John Madden and Pat Summerall, called a Manning game in his second season.

“We were playing the Dallas Cowboys, including Troy Aikman, Emmitt Smith, Michael Irvin and Deion Sanders. I called Paw-Paw, and said, ‘Guess what? They are broadcasting it,’^” Manning said, voice cracking. “He said, ‘I can’t believe it.’ He was elated and very proud and to beat the Cowboys that week we had to let the world know the Colts had arrived.”

In Denver, where he plans to live for the near future, Manning staged a second act for the ages. From the moment he signed with Denver in 2012, the Broncos became a national story and a perennial Super Bowl contender. He won 45 games, four consecutive AFC West titles and delivered the greatest single season by a quarterback in 2013, throwing for an NFL record 55 touchdowns and 5,477 yards.

“He made my job easy,” said general manager John Elway. “I think every athlete out there should look at Peyton Manning, of course the football player, but the man. He utilized every asset that God gave him to be the best football player that he could be. To me, that is what sets him apart.”

No season offered as many challenges as his last. Manning arrived in training camp last summer with a sore left foot that became worse as the season advanced. He threw interceptions in his first nine starts, but never lost the confidence of coach Gary Kubiak. Kubiak told him in Cleveland after an ugly overtime victory that he believed they would accomplish something special. His faith was tested as Manning tore the plantar fascia in his left foot on Nov. 15, sending him to the sideline him for six weeks. Manning and Kubiak talked openly and honestly about his path to return, following prescribed rest, use of a walking boot and throwing side sessions in the “quarantined sandbox” of the Broncos Pat Bowlen Fieldhouse.

Manning’s foot improved with the help of a customized orthotic molding made by a specialist working in Manning’s garage. On his last filmed individual practice for Kubiak’s viewing on Dec. 31, Manning delivered a message to his boss.

“As I am watching that day there was something different about that workout. He sent me a signal. It’s we’re No. 1… um, you could take it that way. I took it as, ‘I am ready to play,’^” Kubiak said of the gesture. “I texted him that night and told him the workout looked great and ‘Oh by the way I got the signal.’^”

Manning’s patience in Kubiak’s plan paid off in the regular-season finale. With the Broncos struggling against San Diego, having turned the ball over four times by halftime and homefield advantage throughout the playoffs at stake, Kubiak told Manning to get ready. He was giving the offense one more series with Brock Osweiler to turn things around.

Archie and Olivia Manning, Peyton’s parents, were watching from home.

“Peyton had told me beforehand that he wasn’t going to play, and Olivia said, ‘He’s warming up.’ I figured it was just in case. ‘No,’ she said again, ‘he’s warming up.’ For him to come out of the bullpen and get some drives going, it was special,” said Archie, who called the game one of his favorite memories of his son’s career. “I don’t know if they win the Super Bowl if they go into the playoffs as a fifth seed.”

Manning leaves the game more accomplished than any NFL quarterback. He won more games. He threw for more yards. He won more MVPs than any NFL player, five. He won two Super Bowls — the first with Indianapolis. But friendships forged made Monday’s news conference both memorable and difficult. He looked out at an audience featuring former Colts center Jeff Saturday, Hall of Fame general manager Bill Polian and 11 current Broncos, among them outside linebacker Von Miller and receivers Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders.

“Man,” Sanders said, “it was special being here.”

Because Manning turned quarterbacking into a science — “No one was better before the snap at the line of scrimmage,” Elway said — it’s tempting to assume it was easy. Manning carved his legacy on preparation, believing he could outwork anyone, leaving him with “no regrets.”

Manning said he first realized he might be able to succeed in the NFL when former New Orleans coach Jim Mora Sr. let him step into the huddle and run a play during a Saints practice as a high school junior. He starred at the University of Tennessee where coach Phillip Fulmer said he never witnessed a player process information more quickly.

After 18 NFL seasons, and a record 71,940 passing yards and 539 touchdown passes, Manning is set for life. He seemed at ease with his decision Monday, pleased he played long enough for his children to attend practices and games. He insists he has no idea what’s next — “Life is not shrinking for me. It’s morphing into a whole new world of possibilities,” he said.

“There’s a scripture reading, 2 Timothy 4:7: I have fought the good fight and I have finished the race. I have kept the faith,” Manning said. “Well I have fought the good fight. I’ve finished my football race and after 18 years, it’s time. God bless all of you and God bless football.”

Troy E. Renck: or @troyrenck

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