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Class Act Award: Peyton Manning

This award is one that is close to my heart.  If you know me, you know that I am a die-hard Colts fan.  I bleed blue.  I yell at the television, stomp my feet, throw fits like a child, scream, yell, and cheer like a maniac during games.  Last year was painful for me, but even more painful was the loss of Peyton to Denver. 
We all know that Peyton is a class act on the field.  While I can’t say that I’ve enjoyed the experience of being on the field with Peyton, I can say that his demeanor and leadership on the field are exemplary.  He is a role model for young athletes in his work ethic and sportsmanship.  But, the field isn’t the only place Peyton makes an impact. 
Peyton Manning is probably one of the classiest athletes I have ever seen.  His charitable works in Indiana have been well documented.  It is common knowledge that he has done so much for the city of Indianapolis and the state of Indiana.  One of his notable achievements has been the Peyton Manning Children’s Hospital, which was dedicated in 2007.  This was done because of his work with the hospital.  I don’t only mean monetary donations, which were also a factor.  Peyton was a regular visitor at the hospital.  He did it without press or publicity.  He simply came in and visited with the patients and their families.  The CEO of St. Vincent Hospital discussed his visits to the Children’s Hospital:
No publicity, no fanfare, he’d just come here and do the job and talk to the family, the patient and encourage them,” said Vince Caponi, CEO of St. Vincent Health. “It did make a difference in people’s lives, and he will continue to make a difference in people’s lives.”
That’s only the beginning.  Manning established the Peyback Foundation.  This foundation does everything from providing a forum for high school teams to play in the professional stadium to grants, scholarships, charity events, and Colts ticket incentive programs.  These programs have helped thousands of disadvantaged youths. 
Peyton Manning receiving the Walter Payton Man of the Year Award for his charitable work.
I’m sure I could find enough examples to fill pages worth of blog posts with examples of his works.  As it stands, I only need to give two more examples.  First, a couple of days ago tragedy struck Colorado.   Dozens of people were killed and injured while attending a movie.  In yet another example of Peyton’s caring nature, he placed calls to the victims of the tragedy.  He spoke with the victims one-on-one and asked if they were doing as well as possible considering the circumstances.  This is a man who had no reason to do anything like this.  He doesn’t gain anything by making those phone calls.  All he does is slightly brighten the day for people who have had nothing but darkness since Friday. 
My final example comes from my own experience.  When I was younger, I worked part-time as a valet for St. Elmo’s Steakhouse in Indianapolis.  Peyton was a frequent patron of the restaurant.  On the occasions that he came in and I was working, I noticed a trend.  It would be very easy for someone in his position to dismiss a valet.  But he didn’t.  He took a minute and stopped to talk to us when he came in.  Sometimes he would give us a hard time because we weren’t there when he arrived and he had to park himself (in jest, of course).  Sometimes we would talk college football.  No matter what we talked about, or how brief it was, this multimillionaire celebrity athlete took a minute out of his time to have a few words with some kids who were on the bottom of the totem pole.  This may not seem like much compared to the impact he’s had on the lives of so many…but it shows that this man is a real class act.  He doesn’t just do it for the cameras and the publicity.

The reasons above are why I have said that losing Peyton in Indianapolis has been a huge mistake.  Not only was he a leader on the field, he was a great man for the city and the people.  I still love the Colts, and I support Andrew Luck 100%, but I think losing Peyton was a dark day for Colts fans, the City of Indianapolis, and the State of Indiana.  We lost a great man this year.  

I played a little high school football (poorly).  But, I count it as an invaluable experience in my life.  One thing I learned from this experience is something that our coach worked very hard to instill in his players.  He always told us that, no matter what happened, we were always to be “first class.”  I can’t think of a better example of being first class.  So, in honor of everything he does on and off of the field, today’s recipient of the Class Act Award goes to Peyton Manning.
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