The greatest player in Colts history has come back to Indianapolis. In statue form.
The Colts unveiled a statue immortalizing Peyton Manning Saturday, paying tribute to the quarterback who turned the franchise from an NFL laughingstock into one of its most successful teams. With Manning commanding the offense, Indianapolis won 141 regular season games in 13 seasons, advanced to two Super Bowls, and won the Super Bowl in 2006.
It was a big moment for Manning, whose success stoked the flames of fandom in central Indiana and paved the way for his team to move from the 1980s-relic RCA Dome and into Lucas Oil Stadium. Now he’ll stand outside the stadium he once filled each week to welcome fans inside.
“That means a great deal to me,” Manning told the Colts’ official site earlier this week. “It doesn’t happen very often. I have a great appreciation for how unique it is. … You hear Jim Irsay talk about the Horseshoe; it is iconic, everybody knows what it means. So I was proud to wear the horseshoe, and was proud to wear No. 18.”
The ceremony had several famous attendees from Manning’s time with the Colts, including team owner Jim Irsay and many former Colts players including Reggie Wayne, Marshall Faulk, Jeff Saturday, and Dwight Freeney.
Others in Indianapolis included NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, former late night host David Letterman, and former Colts general manager Bill Polian.
“I think no statue, no stadium, and no Lombardi Trophy is needed to outline what Peyton Manning meant to this city and to this franchise,” Polian said during the ceremony.
Manning’s first NFL head coach, Jim Mora Sr., didn’t make the trip, citing his strained relationship with the franchise after being fired in 2002.
"I told (Manning) I wasn't going to come," Mora said, via the Indianapolis Star’s Dakota Crawford. "I had reasons. I would love to come back there, but because of the way I left the Colts, my relationship with (Bill) Polian, I don't know. I just wouldn't feel that I would feel comfortable being there."
Marvin Harrison, who is the all-time leader in receptions and touchdowns from passes thrown by Manning, also wasn’t in attendance.
Tony Dungy was the man at the helm for the majority of Manning’s years with the Colts and was one of the many there on Saturday and spoke about the quarterback at the ceremony.
“A guy who is great in the community, a great person and extremely gifted...that's Peyton Manning,” Dungy said.
The celebration of Manning’s career doesn’t end on Saturday. On Sunday, he’ll have his number retired and name raised to the rafters before the Colts face the 49ers. He should be able to walk away from Lucas Oil Stadium after celebrating an Indianapolis victory — San Francisco is 0-4 to start the season.