As Richard Sherman hobbled around the New Meadowlands Arena, in what was a comparatively tame post-Super Bowl celebration, he felt someone tap him on the shoulder. Sherman turned around and saw that it was the Denver Broncos’ Peyton Manning, checking to see if the star cornerback was all right.
“He was really concerned about my well-being,” Sherman said after the game. “After a game like that, he’s a guy who’s still classy enough to say ‘How are you doing?’ To show that kind of concern for an opponent shows a lot of humility and class.”
Media pundits and sports analysts will contend that Manning’s legacy was solidified during the game, in which he led the Denver offense to a lone touchdown and a scant eight points. Manning’s “Omaha’s” were muted by Seattle’s “12th man,” and his passes were tipped, battered and picked off by the Seahawks’ Legion of Boom secondary line. Manning appeared to struggle from the game’s first snap.
In the eyes of the public, Manning had just squandered an opportunity to claim his place in history as the greatest quarterback ever to play the game. Yet there he was, checking to see that his opponent was feeling okay.
Manning may not be the greatest player of all time, but his legacy is more than the number of rings on his fingers. Sure, when the dust settles, Manning only won a single Super Bowl and has lost more post-season games than he has won.
On the other end of the spectrum, his regular seasons have been enormously successful. In his 2013 campaign, Manning set the NFL record for the most touchdown passes in a single season and added a fifth MVP award.
Off the field, Manning has been the definition of class. He is a celebrity who has never let fame change him. With his Southern gentility and ’50s haircut, Manning has been a sportsman all the way. There have been no records of misdemeanors, no murder controversies and no children out of wedlock — quite the opposite actually. While in Indianapolis, Manning paid for the construction and foundation of a children’s hospital. After being kicked out of Indianapolis, Manning said, “I truly enjoyed being your quarterback.” He is one of the few to treat the position as if people everywhere depend on him.
At 37, Manning’s window of opportunity to win another Super Bowl may be closing, but his legacy remains bolder than ever. He is one of the smartest quarterbacks, a gentleman at his core and stands today as the leader of the Denver Broncos football team. His decorum will differentiate him forever.
A version of this article appeared in the Monday, Feb. 11 print edition. Nishaad Ruparel is a contributing writer. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org