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Peyton Manning
Peyton Manning
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Peyton Manning Interview (page: 6 / 7)

Super Bowl Champion Quarterback

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  Peyton Manning

By the time you were in high school, you were already known as an athlete. There were expectations. When you got to college, surely there were expectations of you. How did you handle that? How did that affect you, being a star athlete as a kid, as a young man?

Peyton Manning: Yeah. I think the expectations I had in college, and the ones I've had in the professional ranks, I was prepared, because I had to deal with it at such a young age. When I was seven or eight years old, playing baseball, traveling with my team, all over the state. Everywhere you went, my dad is in the stands. He was either still playing quarterback for the Saints, or just retired, and still a very popular guy.

People knew who I was, and kids liked to strike me out. They liked it if I made an error, and it was probably a little bigger deal than if their shortstop made the error. So I learned about it at a young age. It probably made me work a little harder at times, so I didn't mess up. Nobody likes to be embarrassed, you know. So when everybody knows who you are, you could be more easily embarrassed because more people are looking at you. It may have motivated me to work a little harder. I knew people were always looking at me, so it made me kind of think twice about the things that I did. That was a positive out of it, especially for the life that I'm in today. People are always watching. It wasn't the cell phone camera back then like it is today, as an eight-year-old, but it was a good learning tool about making the right decisions.

[ Key to Success ] Perseverance

Was it easier or harder being the son of Archie Manning?

Peyton Manning Interview Photo
Peyton Manning: It certainly could have been harder, like other ex-athletes' kids had it. I think because of the way my parents handled it, it wasn't difficult. It felt normal to me. They very much tried to create a normal childhood. Sometimes it's not normal, when you're out to dinner and people come up and talk to him and get his autograph. That's not normal, but in times when you weren't in public, we were very normal. We ate dinner as a family, always had to get up for breakfast and eat breakfast as a family. My dad used to read a daily devotional to the family. They just tried to keep things normal. Now, when you're out in public, you had to be prepared for what came along with that. So I never felt it was difficult. You got used to the things that happened when you were in public. I think, because of just the way they supported us and protected us, it felt very normal.

We've interviewed a number of athletes, and they graduated from college, but not too many of them graduated Phi Beta Kappa. How do you explain that?

Peyton Manning: I don't consider myself to be smarter than the next person. My wife went to the University of Virginia. I always tell her that's because she couldn't get into Tennessee. I joke with her. I worked hard in school. I went to college on a football scholarship, and sure, I had goals and dreams, like most kids. I wanted to play pro football or pro baseball. That was your answer when they asked you that in class. What do you want to be when you grow up? "I want to be a football player." But I was never on this mission to be a football player. To say that I knew I was going to be a football player when I was six years old? Forget it. People that say that, I still don't believe them. You don't know, as a six-year-old, or even as a 16-year-old, what you're going to do.

I went to college, and I said, "I need to get a good education. I'm going to work hard in school," because, like I talked about out there earlier, my older brother had a neck injury. Football career is over like that. Nothing he did about it. He was in school at Ole Miss. He was working hard in school. He has got a lot of friends, and he could be happy without football. So that was kind of my approach: I need to go someplace where I can be happy if my football career doesn't work out, due to injury or due to poor performance. So I felt real comfortable there in college at Tennessee and worked hard in school and studied hard and was very meticulous about the academic side of it. To be named Phi Beta Kappa, I was always real proud of that and still consider that one of my proudest achievements.

Is it hard to resist all the distractions that come with being a high school and college star athlete?

Peyton Manning: Sure. Absolutely. And you don't always resist them. There are some things that you want to do. There are times when you have that talk with yourself: "I ought to be able to do this. This is not fair that I can't do this, and I'm going to do it." Sometimes you find out you can't do it, and it's wrong. You get in trouble. I think there's a learning process to find out what you can do and what you can't do. Sometimes you have to make a mistake to learn what's right and what's wrong. But like all things, you get used to it, and you just know how you've got to be and what the situation has got to be.

Today, when I go to a movie, I'm going to have to come in the normal way, but I'm going out that exit door right by the screen, the one that always opens up to a deserted alley -- you don't even know where you are -- because if you go back out the normal way, everybody's waiting for you with all their autograph stuff. You just know how it's going to be, so you adjust and you prepare for it.

At Tennessee, you could have left school after three years as a number one draft pick. You couldn't do any better than that. But you didn't leave.

Peyton Manning: Probably the toughest decision I had to make at that time. That was the thing, because I had my degree. That was the tough thing. "Well, I'm not going to graduate," I'd say. "I'm going back to school." I just thought a lot about it. I prayed a lot about it. I sought a lot of advice from my dad. My dad got me some phone numbers of some guys that I wanted to call, some other athletes that had been in that situation, some that stayed, some that went, and talked about, "Hey, I regretted it," or "No, I did the right thing, I left early." So I formed kind of a pros and cons list. I like to write things down. I'm kind of a note-taker. I think writing things down creates that blueprint that guides you through the ups and downs of life, and I just made my decision. As soon as I make it, the one thing I do believe, I think it's up to you to make it the right decision after you make it. To say, "I made the right decision," right when you make it, how do you really know? You don't even ask that question. You say, "I'm going to make it the right decision," by going out and doing it and working hard and not looking back and not second-guessing yourself.

[ Key to Success ] Preparation

My senior year in college was great. Very rewarding, great memories, friendships that kind of solidified during that senior year. I stayed injury-free. That was probably the biggest question at times. I just don't ask that question. If you think about that and play that way, that's when you get hurt. I just didn't want to be 50 years old and then wonder what my senior year in college would have been like. That was the ultimate factor, I think.

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This page last revised on Feb 12, 2016 12:22 EDT
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