The question “Who dat?” is not asked when talking about Indianapolis Colts’ quarterback Peyton Manning.
Right before the devastating loss to the New Orleans Saints in Super Bowl XLIV, Manning received some not so devastating news about his future contract renewal. The Colt’s owner, Jim Irsay, announced he plans to keep Manning until he retires and is willing to pay a good amount of money to do so. Irsay said he plans to make Manning the highest-paid player in National Football League (NFL) history.
Being drafted in 1998 to the Colts, Manning signed a $48 million contract. He first renewed his contract in 2004, when he signed a $99.2 million contract and also received a $34.5 million signing bonus. According to ESPN.com, when his contract runs out in 2010, Manning is projected to be offered $20 million per year along with a signing bonus in the realm of $50 million.
As of 2009, Julius Peppers of the Carolina Panthers was the highest-paid NFL player, with an annual salary of $16.683 million. Carson Palmer and Manning’s younger brother, Eli, were not far behind Peppers. According to Irsay, the only person with comparable talent to Manning, is New England Patriots’ quarterback Tom Brady who is also looking to renew his contract during the off-season. However Irsay said he is keeping an eye on Brady’s contract so that Manning’s offer will be the highest.
The top NFL salary has dramatically increased over time and many well-known players have gotten the honor. In fact, Manning’s father, Archie Manning, who coincidentally was the quarterback of the New Orleans Saints for most of his career, was declared the top-paid player in 1981. However, Archie’s salary was a bit smaller than the number his middle son is looking to see in the near future. Archie made $600,000 in that season, with Chicago Bears running back Walter Payton coming in a close second.
So, is Manning deserving of this big reward? In my opinion, this is not a hard question at all. It is a definite yes.
Manning primarily deserves the honor because of his contributions to the Colts and Indianapolis on the playing field. Manning is the first NFL player ever, to be named most valuable player (MVP) four times. He was also named the MVP of Super Bowl XLI in 2007. Manning is one of only four quarterbacks to throw for more than 50,000 yards. He is currently third all-time in career touchdown passes and he has played in the Pro Bowl nine times. Not to mention his two appearances in the Super Bowl within the last five years.
Although he has some of the best statistics of any quarterback in football history, he is not only deserving of the money because of his athletic talent, but also because of his generosity.
According to looktothestars.org, a Web site that tracks celebrity charity news, events, foundations and causes, Manning has continuously supported various causes such as AIDS research, disaster relief and human rights. He has previously donated to the Red Cross, and is now a member of the Red Cross Celebrity Cabinet.
However, his two most prominent charities are the Saint Vincent Children’s Hospital in Indianapolis and the Peyback Foundation. The children’s hospital was named for Manning on Sept. 6, 2007, because of his tremendous donations to the organization. The Peyback Foundation was founded by Manning himself to care for the disadvantaged children of Louisiana, where Manning grew up; Tennessee, where he went to college and Indiana, where he is currently living. Through the Peyback Foundation, Manning donated $10,000 to the East Tenth United Methodist Children and Youth Center. The center he funded was built to care for and educate the underprivileged children of downtown Indianapolis.
In fact, in 2007 alone, Manning donated $500,000 to 70 different youth-related agencies in Indiana, Tennessee and Louisiana. Manning was even awarded with the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award in 2005, which is awarded to a NFL player for both his involvement in community service activities and his excellence on the field.
My opinion of the quarterback was further validated through a personal experience this past December. A family friend, Parker Bandy, was sent to the Peyton Manning Children’s Hospital to receive surgery. After Bandy’s grandfather contacted the Colts saying what a huge fan Bandy was, Manning himself showed up in his hospital room to visit Bandy, take pictures and to offer him front row tickets to the Tennessee Titans game.
Peyton Manning has become a huge phenomenon and a key part of the Indianapolis Colts because of his talents and his character. According to a Harris poll survey taken in 2009, Manning is the seventh most popular American male sports star and the favorite American football player. Despite coming short of winning another Lombardi Trophy, Peyton is obviously an inspiration to people all over the country and is at the top of my list of athletes deserving this kind of reward.
Alex Mackall is a reporter for the HiLite. Contact her at <firstname.lastname@example.org>.