Brock Huard on Peyton Manning retiring: ‘I’ve never respected an athlete more’
Days before making his emotional retirement speech, Peyton Manning sent a text message to a group of people that included Brock Huard, a teammate of his from more than a decade ago.
Huard read the text on-air Monday: “I’m asking for your confidentiality. I love all you guys and value our friendships and our times playing together. I’m going to retire from football on Monday. Eighteen seems to be a good number and it’s now time. You guys are the best. Please keep this confidential until tomorrow.”
To Huard, it was a quintessential Manning moment. Although he spent just two seasons as the future Hall of Famer’s backup in Indianapolis, Manning took the time to text him while also asking for courtesy so that ESPN’s Chris Mortensen, who is battling cancer, could break the story Sunday morning.
“I’ve never respected an athlete more, never really been in awe on a football field or any sporting field the way I was when I watched this guy work,” Huard said Monday, hours before Manning’s official announcement. “He was all-in in every way.”
Here are Huard’s top takeaways on Manning’s career and retirement.
Thankful Manning didn’t return. Huard cringed every time he heard reports that Manning might stick around and wreck the fairy-tale ending to a legendary career.
“It was the right decision. Last week was weird talking to (John) Clayton almost every single day as these rumors and innuendos came out. Was there maybe some animosity between him and Denver? Were there other teams he was flirting with? Was he really legitimately thinking about continuing to play the game when the storybook ending had been written? I just couldn’t wrap my mind around that.”
Manning was the best regular-season quarterback of all time. “Stat-wise, he is No. 1. Tom Brady’s gonna maybe close in, and we’ll see how long he can play for the next couple years, but 16 years of not missing a snap and not missing a game … statistically speaking, he was the greatest quarterback to ever play. John Clayton puts him in the top three overall. I think I do, too.”
Manning was the hardest worker he ever knew. “I prided myself on being that guy and being the hardest worker I knew. I quickly realized that, wow, my commitment to football, to lifting, to the game and everything else, was very well defined as beaten, because he was all in.”
Besides his brain, Manning’s next best attribute was creativity. Not only on the field, where he was a technician, but off the field, specifically in the ways he created new drills and techniques to improve.
“It’s kind of the one thing that he and I shared just a little bit. I love finding new ways with the medicine ball to do things when I was in high school, to sit on the picnic table and throw 100 spirals, to go out in the back yard and tie tubing to the trees and do my drop-backs … (He was) wired in that way to always do a little bit more. I’m not gonna do just what’s asked, and many times it was his own creativity that took that to the next level.”