INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – The raw numbers from 18 years of Apple! Apple! and Omaha! Omaha!, of matching wits with Ray Lewis and Ed Reed, of playing pitch-and-catch with Marvin Harrison and Reggie Wayne and so many others, of slingin’ it around the NFL landscape might as well be the security code to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio.
You know, the 539 touchdowns and 71,940 yards, both all-time NFL records. The four Super Bowl appearances and being the only quarterback to bring world championships to two cities. The 200 overall victories. The league-record 5 MVP awards.
The facts and figures, as daunting as they are, hardly tell Peyton Manning’s story.
The underlying reason the Indianapolis Colts have a celebration planned Saturday at Lucas Oil Stadium to unveil a Peyton Manning statue? It’s what it took to methodically, meticulously compile such a resume.
“With Peyton, it’s just preparation,’’ Wayne told CBS4. “There’s nobody I know in this world that prepares harder than he does. I don’t care if it’s just on a work basis, football basis, every-day-life basis. You think I’m joking, but I really do think this dude plans his day out every day of his life.
“Some people say, ‘You know what? Tomorrow’s Saturday. I’m gonna wake up whenever my eyes open and then I’ll just take what comes.’’’
That someone, Wayne insisted, is not and never will be Peyton Manning.
“He doesn’t operate like that,’’ he said. “I think every day he says, ‘OK, I’m going to wake up at 7 o’clock, at 7:05 I’m going to brush my teeth, 7:08 I’m going to put my socks on.’
“Everything is mapped out.’’
That was especially true on West 56th Street.
“He carried his football life that way,’’ said Wayne, Manning’s teammate for 11 seasons who’ll remain a life-long friend. “Every day he knew exactly what he wanted to do. In practice, he knew exactly what he wanted to get accomplished, exactly how he wanted a play to work out for him.
“When I think of him, man, I think there’s nobody who prepares harder in life than this dude.’’
Colts teammates witnessed the positive aspects of Manning’s Type A personality for 14 years and 227 games, including the playoffs. He set the standard for what was expected and how to get it done. Manning generally was one of the first to arrive at the team complex and one the last to leave.
Wayne came to the conclusion Manning didn’t have much of a social life, in part because it was difficult for him to go places without being recognized and approached.
“He’s a god to people,’’ Wayne said. “There’s not many places he can go and be normal without people bothering me.’’
Wayne once thought he finally had cracked Manning’s inner circle and was going to enjoy a relaxing evening with him. After a practice, Manning invited Wayne to his house.
“I’m leaving the complex and I’m like, ‘Alright, cool. I’m done with my day, done with practice. Now I can (relax),’’’ Wayne said. “I go to his home – at that time he didn’t live too far from me – and we go down in the basement where a normal person would have a theater room.’’
“He had a clone of one of the team meeting rooms,’’ Wayne said, laughing. “I was like, ‘Dude, I just left practice. Why do I feel like I’m back on West 56th?’ That’s just how the dude is. He prepares that way.
“For me, if I’m watching something at home, I’m on the couch feeling like I’m at home. Him, he’s like he never left the Colts complex. That’s just how it is with him. That may surprise some people, but not me. That’s just how he lived his career every day.
“Listen, if I’m that detailed, push me off a cliff. That means I’m not having fun. It works for some people. Sometimes I want to wing it, you know what I mean?’’
Wayne’s approach worked for him. He authored a Hall of Fame-caliber career as well. In 14 seasons with the Colts, he piled up 1,070 catches for 14,345 yards. Both rank 10th in NFL history. His 93 playoff receptions rank second all-time to Jerry Rice’s 151. His 1,254 yards rank 4th.
For 10 seasons, Wayne and Manning were an on-field tandem, and a prolific one. Manning and Hall of Famer Marvin Harrison set NFL records by a quarterback-receiver duo with 953 completions, 12,766 yards and 112 touchdowns. Manning/Wayne ranked second on the list with 779 completion and 10,602 yards, and 4th with 67 TDs.
“We all had our individual goals,’’ Wayne said. “We all knew what we wanted to get done. But we wanted our goals to be on par with Peyton’s because we knew that dude is gonna swing for the fences.
“Peyton was like, ‘I don’t want today just to be a base hit. I want today to be a home run.’ For him, every day was a home run. Some guys get complacent and say, ‘All right, I don’t gotta get a home run today. I can get a base hit or hopefully I can get a double.’ He was thinking home run, 5-star every time.
“So that’s what you wanted. I never wanted to make my goals mediocre. I was like Peyton, ‘Let’s make these goals phenomenal.’’’
From 2002-10, the Colts were 109-35 (.757). They tied a league record with nine consecutive playoff appearances. They reached the Super Bowl twice and won the franchise’s first world championship in three decades.
It was sustained excellence, and that started at the top with Manning, Wayne, Harrison and so many others setting the tone.
“It’s not easy,’’ Wayne said, “but if you’re able to get it done, you’re amongst the elite of the elite.’’
Despite Manning’s tunnel-vision approach, Wayne recalled rare occasions “when his hair was down.’’
A routine during the season included Thursday night dinners involving Wayne, Gary Brackett, Robert Mathis, Antoine Bethea, Jerraud Powers and a few others.
One time, Manning overheard plans being made for the next Thursday evening gathering.
“We joked about it, ‘Hey Peyton, why don’t you come eat?’’’ Wayne said. “We knew on Thursday night he didn’t want to go out. He wanted to go home and study and get ready for Friday’s practice. For us it was a chance to go out and eat, talk about the week of practice and also watch Thursday night football.’’
Manning stunned his teammates by joining them. That Sunday, the Colts blew out whichever team they were playing, so Manning insisted on joining the Thursday night crowd.
“One thing about Peyton is he’s superstitious,’’ Wayne said. “We were like, ‘OK, Peyton, we’re going out next week.’ He was like, ‘Yeah, I’ve got to be there. I’ve got work to do, but we won last week so I’ve got to keep going.’
“Shoot, we won like six or seven weeks in a row. The dude was locked in.
“There were times he was able to let his hair down, and it wasn’t easy for him. We may have an adult beverage or two to relax. It was a chance for us to see a Peyton we weren’t used to seeing.’’