On March 24, 1976, Peyton Manning is born in New Orleans, Louisiana, to Archie and Olivia Manning. Archie had been a star quarterback for the University of Mississippi (1968-1970) and the New Orleans Saints (1971-1981).
Peyton began his own football career at Isidore Newman High School in New Orleans, where he threw passes to his older brother Cooper, a wide receiver. Ole Miss fans were shocked and dismayed when Manning rejected his father’s alma mater and instead headed after graduation for the University of Tennessee, where he played under Coach Phillip Fullmer. He graduated in three years, and despite predictions that he would be the number-one pick in the NFL draft, he returned to the Volunteers to try to win a national title in the 1997 season. Although his quest was ultimately unsuccessful–the Vols finished the season with an 11-2 record and lost to Nebraska in the Orange Bowl–Manning won nearly every award open to a college quarterback that year, including the James E. Sullivan Award for the best amateur athlete in the country, but he came in second in the Heisman Trophy voting to cornerback Charles Woodson of Michigan.
In 1998, Manning was drafted by the Indianapolis Colts as the first pick overall. He started every game that year, and had never missed a start in his pro career through the 2006 season. Popular with fans and well-known for both his on-the-field play-calling and his witty product endorsements, Manning proved himself a top NFL quarterback in his first five seasons. In 2004, he broke Dan Marino’s seemingly unbreakable record of 48 touchdowns in a season with 49 of his own. Manning led the Colts to the AFC Championship that season, but both he and the team had a dismal showing, losing to the Patriots in Foxborough for the second year in a row. In 2005, Manning seemed to rebound, leading the Colts to a 13-0 regular-season start. Again, though, Manning disappointed in the postseason and, again, the Colts lost the AFC Championship, this time at home to the eventual Super Bowl champion Pittsburgh Steelers. Though he had been named the NFL’s Most Valuable Player twice, pundits began to accuse Manning of being “soft” in the post-season, and questioned his ability to win big games.
In 2006, the Colts started fast again with nine consecutive wins, but slipped into a funk, finishing the season with a 12-4 record. After beating Kansas City at home in the first round of the playoffs, the Colts upset the Ravens in Baltimore in the divisional series. In the AFC title game, Manning led the Colts back from a 21-3 deficit, finally beating the New England Patriots–led by Manning’s friend, quarterback Tom Brady—38-34, in one of the most exciting conference championships in NFL history.
In Super Bowl XLI, on February 4, 2007, the Colts defeated the Bears 29-17, and Manning was named Super Bowl MVP. It was the first Super Bowl title for any Manning quarterback–Archie never won one, and little brother Eli, quarterback for the New York Giants, has yet to make it to the big game.