What We Can Learn from Peyton Manning’s Comeback

I’m a football fan, a Denver Broncos fan, and a Peyton Manning fan. So Super Bowl 50 was my football fantasy. I had a fantastic seat for the painful beating they took two years earlier at the hands of the Seahawks in Super Bowl 48. This time, Peyton had redemption on his mind. 

He came back and won it all. How?

In a word. Leadership.

It’s as simple as that. Yes, the defense was unbelievable. Von Miller, Aqib Talib, DeMarcus Ware.  Seriously. Peyton definitely didn’t win it alone. In fact, he didn’t even play exceptionally well.  But. Oh, and it’s a BIG BUT.

Would they have won the Super Bowl without him? I don’t think so.

And if you think his comeback started with his run for the Super Bowl, then you are mistaken. Peyton’s road to redemption was a long one and it started long before Super Bowl 50. It began in 2011, when Peyton experienced a potentially career-ending injury in a game. He underwent a very serious cervical fusion procedure soon afterwards. 

Manning had never missed a single game in 13 seasons in the NFL. He missed the entire 2011 season.

His injury was devastating – his recovery brutal and exhausting.  

But Peyton was prepared to fight, even when those closest to him gave up on him.

In 2012, he was released by the only team he’d ever played for – the Indianapolis Colts. He was picked up two weeks later by the Denver Broncos. 

Suddenly, football was a giant question mark for Peyton. He’d played football his entire life. Many people argue that he’s the best quarterback to play the game. Ever.

But what if he came back and failed? On television – in front of millions.

He had a lot to lose. But he also had something to prove. 

And he did just that. He didn’t just come back and play the best football of his life. He took his new team to two Super Bowls. And won. Now that, my friends, is a comeback!

While I’ve never had to recover from a major injury like Peyton, I’ve gone through my own trials and I am inspired by his heart.

I don’t know where you are right now, but if you happen to be going through a rough time, in just about any area of your life, then read on. Manning’s story may be just what you need hear.


Three Lessons We Should Learn from Peyton Manning

A Comeback Is Possible – Dig In

Things looked pretty bleak for Manning after surgery. In her article, Peyton Manning On His Neck Surgeries – And How He Almost Didn’t Make It Back, Sally Jones reported that Manning’s first post-surgery pass was to his old college friend, Todd Helton, then a first baseman with the Colorado Rockies. They went to an underground batting cage so no one could see Peyton’s first post-surgery practice. His arm was so weak that his first “pass” landed five yards short of his goal.

His goal was ten measly yards.

Helton thought Manning was joking. But it wasn’t a joke. That was Manning’s new reality. One of the best quarterbacks to ever play the game couldn’t throw the ball ten yards.

But Peyton refused to accept the new reality. He dug in his heels and did the work to get back to the game he loves.

A Comeback Requires Change – Adapt As Needed

It didn’t take long for Manning to realize that his body didn’t work like it did before, but he had to play the hand he’d been dealt. It took courage to take the field again, knowing that the world was watching. But Manning believed he could play again – even if he didn’t play the same.

He explained, “I don’t believe I throw quite the same as before I was injured. A lot of that is injury, a lot of it is being 37 years old, and a lot is playing with a new team. I’ve had a lot of change. It’s hard to know what percentage is what. I’m just trying to be the best player I can be in this new chapter.” (Peyton Manning on His Neck Surgeries Rehab – and How He Almost Didn’t Make it Back)

Peyton was willing to adapt his game – both physically and mentally – in order to get the results he wanted. And it paid off.

A Comeback Creates Influence – Leverage Your Strengths

While Peyton worked on strengthening his body, he used his greatest asset – his mind – to strengthen his team. His head coach, John Fox, says that Manning’s comeback was largely dependent on his work ethic. In fact, Fox says that Manning, “raises all boats…Guys see that [his work ethic] and he raises the bar pretty high for all of his teammates.”

Isn’t that a great thing for a coach to say about a player? Not only did he up his own game, but he upped the game of his teammates.

In fact, some of his coaches think he’s a better player than ever because of his injury. According to them, it has forced him to hone some new skills, rely more on his teammates, and develop his already impressive leadership style. Peyton used his influence to give him an edge.

What was The Result of His Effort?

In his first season back from injury, Manning set Broncos franchise records in nearly every passing category. (completions, passing yards, completion percentage, touchdowns, and passer rating.)

What makes me love him even more is that he doesn’t take credit for any of it. He lifts up his teammates – both past and present. He thanks them in every interview.

Peyton is the guy you want leading your team. He’s the sure bet. Even when it doesn’t seem like it. Not because he’s the fastest guy on the field or the best passer in the league – but because he inspires the people around him to be better. And that is the very definition of leadership.

Manning Didn’t Stumble into Success. He Worked for it.

So, if you are in a place in your life when you need to make a comeback, I hope these words will speak to you.

It’s not easy to make a comeback.

Maybe you have a lot to lose. But maybe…just maybe…you also have something to prove.

Perhaps it’s time to find out what you’re made of. If so then get up, put on your game face, and give it all you’ve got.

Because it’s time. To play like Peyton.



Peyton Manning On His Neck Surgeries – And How He Almost Didn’t Make It Back by Sally Jones



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