Work, not pedigree, key to Manning’s success

I had a hunch. When Peyton Manning showed up for a mini-camp after the Colts drafted him six years ago, he already seemed destined for greatness-and his famous pedigree had nothing to do with it.

In 1998, Sports Illustrated published a feature story on the rookie quarterback that revealed just how special this guy was. It made such an impression on me that I still remember it after all these years. According to the article, Manning drove his old beat-up car to his new job as Colts QB. And while most first-round draft pics were busy shopping for castles and jewelry, Manning moved into a drab one-room apartment and started studying his playbook. He was quoted in the article as saying that he wanted to keep things basic for a while to minimize distractions so that he could concentrate on becoming a competent NFL quarterback. That, my friends, is how greatness is attained.

Much is made of Peyton’s father being a former NFL quarterback. It’s not that big of a deal. First of all, many very good NFL quarterbacks had sons and they all played catch in the backyard, but most of them never made it. If anything was decisive about the relationship between Peyton and his father, it likely is that somewhere along the way the Colt’s QB learned the value of hard work.

We place so much emphasis on natural talent that we tend to overlook the work factor. Notice how many great athletes were also the hardest workers. Jordan, Gretzky, Clemens, etc., they all put in overtime while their teammates were driving home. It’s no coincidence.

Manning may be the best ever by the time he is finished. He really is that good. But while I have no doubt he will keep showing up, punching the time clock and putting in a solid day’s work, I’m not so sure about the people at the top of the Colts organization. Will the owners and coaches commit to building a defense good enough to win the big one?

It was fitting that the Colts played the Chargers in Peyton’s historic game Sunday. Remember the Chargers back in the 1980s? They ripped it up every Sunday as quarterback Dan Fouts scored almost at will. The problem, however, was that the Chargers defense too often gave up a few more touchdowns than Fouts could toss. If the Colts want to be Super, they had better invest in a reliable, blue-collar defense to match their quarterback.

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