Huard on Manning controversies: That’s not the Peyton I was around

Feb 17, 2016, 1:50 PM | Updated: 2:21 pm
Brock Huard says he remembers the allegations against Peyton Manning while playing for the Colts. (...
Brock Huard says he remembers the allegations against Peyton Manning while playing for the Colts. (AP)

The resurfacing of 20-year-old sexual misconduct allegations against Peyton Manning, mixed with the lingering report that the future Hall of Famer used HGH to recover from a neck injury, have cast a surprising pall over one of the NFL’s most respected players.

For Brock Huard, who spent two seasons as Manning’s backup QB in Indianapolis, it’s a confusing time on multiple levels.

“I see it as a fascinating look at our media,” he said on 710 ESPN Seattle’s “Brock and Salk” Tuesday. “Media today is so much different. Why was this reaction not there 10 years ago when there were stories written about (the allegations) and what was going down in 2003 with the release of his book? Why now? Why this outrage now?”

Related: Matt Hasselbeck weighs in on Cam Newton’s post-Super Bowl behavior

The New York Daily News published an article Saturday by polarizing reporter Shaun King that details how Manning’s squeaky-clean image was built on lies and that his family used a smear campaign against an athletic trainer who claimed Manning thrust his naked crotch into her face while he played for the University of Tennessee. Manning is among the athletes cited in a lawsuit filed by a group of women alleging that the University of Tennessee violated Title IX regulations and created a “hostile sexual environment” through a policy of indifference toward assaults by student-athletes.

While other QBs Huard played with, including Jon Kitna and Matt Hasselbeck, became lifelong friends, he says Manning was always more guarded and a different level of celebrity. Manning is at the core of always being celebrated and held in high esteem for one reason or another.

“I didn’t sit there and look at him as this perfect human being but I did see a guy who, in my estimation, treated people very differently than any of these allegations,” he said. “…Perfect human being? No. Shocked by this over the weekend? Not necessarily.

“That’s not the Peyton that I was ever around,” Huard added. “You could have a thousand other women that he’s interacted with, both in the NFL, in his celebrity status, marketing, foundations, charitable work. I will be curious what comes next because what’s happened in some of these cases is then more come out of the woodwork the other way and then it becomes a real torrent of disaster for that said celebrity.”

Huard said society, and the media, views these types of situations in a different light than they did a decade ago, which is a good thing. Much like Tiger Woods’ off-the-course controversies, Huard said money and power can’t keep everything from coming to light.

“When you are on top – and (Manning) is on top – some of those bridges that you have burned – and he has burned them, and his family has burned them – they are going to come back to bite you,” he said.

Despite the current controversy, Huard believes Al-Jazeera’s allegations about Manning using HGH will ultimately be more damning on Manning’s legacy than the 20-year-old lawsuit.

“I’m not going to be naive, it will have an effect and his next steps will be critical,” Huard said. “The HGH, I would predict, will be a bigger deal than even what came out over the weekend.”

Co-host Mike Salk thinks the controversy goes beyond the single alleged act, but more about the cover up and the power of the Manning family. He says looking at sports and its participants in terms of good and evil never works out.

“Every time we start deifying our athletes and really putting them up as people who could do no wrong, you run the risk that they are,” Salk said. “And how many times do we need to find out that these guys aren’t perfect before we stop doing this and finally admit that we don’t truly know these guys? We know who they are on the field and we can judge who they are on the field, but it’s really, really difficult to judge who they are off the field.”

Salk says one of the biggest questions the public has to answer in today’s sports and political climate is: How do you decide who and what to believe?

“Trying to figure out what is true in the United States in 2016 is becoming the biggest single fight in politics, sports, media, journalism, you name it,” he said. “Trying to figure out what is true or not is like a full-time job.”

The full conversation can be heard during this podcast of the second hour of “Brock and Salk” from Tuesday.

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