And later this year, outside the stadium that might not have been built without the success of the Manning era in Indy, a statue of the longtime quarterback will be unveiled.
The team announced that it will unveil the statue and retire Manning’s No. 18 this season. Both honors seemed inevitable, once Manning’s final chapter with the Denver Broncos was done. Manning will be the first Colt from the Indianapolis era to have his number retired, and there is no other player who deserves it more.
The statue will be unveiled Oct. 8 on the north side of Lucas Oil Stadium. The next day, his No. 18 will be retired and he’ll be inducted into the team’s ring of honor at halftime of the Colts’ Week 5 game against the San Francisco 49ers.
The Colts had plenty of history before 1998, when Manning was drafted, but almost all of it was from when the team was in Baltimore. The Indianapolis Colts’ identity when Manning arrived was pretty much tied to Mayflower trucks leaving Baltimore in the middle of the night, bad trades and regrettable drafts, one fluky trip to the AFC championship game with Jim Harbaugh at quarterback, and mostly terrible football. Manning changed all of that. He turned the Indianapolis Colts into champions.
It’s impossible to separate Manning and the Indianapolis Colts, in the same way we’ll always think about John Elway and the Denver Broncos, or Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints. Maybe it’s hyperbolic to say Manning saved the Colts in Indianapolis, but let’s agree that without Manning it wouldn’t be the same franchise it is today.
Manning had a great second chapter with the Broncos – no other great quarterback in NFL history has had two distinct, successful stints with separate teams like Manning had – but it still felt like Denver was borrowing him from Indianapolis. Not that people in Indiana needed permanent landmarks to remember Manning, but he’ll be properly celebrated there in October.
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