Drew Brees and Peyton Manning Show Character

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Drew Brees and Peyton Manning: Winners On and Off the Field

A pro Quarterback is tough.

Physically tough: on every play, he’s the target of 300 pound defensive linemen whose primary goal in life is to plough quarterbacks into the ground before they can get rid of the football.

Mentally tough: drawing upon his knowledge gleaned from countless hours watching films of the opposing team, he knows that the position of that tackle typically betrays a blitz on a third down and short yardage. With the final seconds of the clock ticking away, he calls an audible – changing the play at the line of scrimmage to hopefully reverse an impending disaster. His words can’t be intelligible to the defense, so he yells it in precisely memorized code, like this Manning audible recorded live in a game - “deuce right 255 times block slant, h disco alert 12 trap…no!, no!, no!...alert 14 belly!”

But mental and physical grit doesn’t imply meanness. In fact, get to know the 2010 Super Bowl quarterbacks and you’ll find, not the men you’d most fear in a barroom brawl, but the guys you’d call for when you desperately need someone who truly cares. Let’s take a brief look at their lives off the playing field.

Peyton Manning will tell you up front that football is his fourth priority, tagging along behind God, family and friends. 1) And these aren’t just words he conjures up when he speaks at schools. He lives and breathes them. He called home almost every night in college, having a huge respect and affection for his parents and brothers. 2) His college town also remembers his numerous visits to children’s wards in hospitals and inspirational talks to school kids. 3) And he’s loyal to his friends – like Drew Brees, whom Manning, as a pro, befriended when Brees was still in college. Peyton called him regularly to encourage him. For Brees, Manning became a mentor to go to for advice. And who knows, perhaps that encouragement and advice gave Brees that little edge that allowed him to take the 2010 Super Bowl away from Manning. But hey, football’s only the fourth priority. According to Peyton, friendships trump sports. 4)

While many players spend their free time relaxing with video games or watching TV, Drew Brees is more likely to be found meeting with a group of community leaders, scheming ways to improve the lives of the less fortunate. According to Brees, “…this is my outlet. This is what I love to do.” 5) Beyond his vast service to the local community, he’s travelled to faraway lands like Afghanistan and Kuwait to encourage troops who risk their lives and miss their families.

Both run foundations, through which they funnel large amounts of time and money to worthy causes. The Brees Dream Foundation gives millions of dollars for cancer research, caring for cancer patients, helping children who face adversity, rebuilding schools, parks, and playgrounds. Peyton’s PeyBack Foundation gives millions to programs that assist disadvantaged youth.

No wonder Peyton received the 2005 Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award, which honors players known for outstanding volunteer and charity work. Brees received the award the next year.
Few of us can equal the performances of Manning and Brees on the field. But after all, football’s just a game, low on their list of top priorities. What makes their success more fulfilling is how they use their platform and wealth and time to help the less fortunate.

What can I learn from Drew Brees and Peyton Manning? Get off the couch; turn off the TV, and go make a difference in someone’s life.

Sources: 1) Manning, by Archie and Peyton Manning, with John Underwood (New York: Harper Entertainment, 2001), p. 362 2) p. 9 3) p. 7 4) Face of the Enemy, by Rick Cleveland, Clarion Ledger, 2/7/10 http://www.clarionledger.com/article/20100207/SPECIAL/2070322  , Will the Student Take Down the Master? http://www.nationalfootballpost.com/Will-the-student-take-down-the-master.html  , Joe Fortenbaugh, National Football Post, 1/29/10. 5) Peter King, The Heart of New Orleans, 1/18/10, Sports Illustrated.cnn.com

(Copyright J. Steve Miller, www.character-education.info , 2/15/10)

Manning Wins While Losing

No, I’m not talking about Peyton Manning losing in the 2010 Super Bowl. I’m talking about his dad - the motivational force behind his unusually successful sons.

Do you ever get bitter about life, playing the “what if” game?

• What if I’d worked for a winning company instead of this losing one?
• What if I’d worked in a different industry?
• What if I’d gone to a better school and played on a better team?
• What if I’d married this person instead of that one?

Archie Manning, father of successful athletes Cooper, Peyton and Eli Manning, was a great quarterback who played for mediocre teams. Stellar quarterback Roger Staubach once said, “If Archie Manning had played for Dallas, he’d be in the Hall of Fame now.” According to Archie, “in terms of real achievement, it was mostly an unfulfilling career.” His teams consistently lost. (1)

And losing teams breed frustrated, angry fans. It got so bad in the stands that his sweet wife, Olivia, stopped sitting with her friends at Saints games. She couldn’t take the brutal jeers at her husband. “Archie can take it, but I can’t,” she admitted. (2) But even after she moved to more inconspicuous seats, she heard shrill voices booing behind her and turned around to discover that it was her own sons! Cooper and Peyton, at ages seven and five, had politely asked their dad if it was okay for them to boo with the others. They also asked if they could wear brown paper bags over their heads like the other disgusted fans. (3) Toward the end of Archie’s career, Olivia stopped attending altogether. (4) Cooper and Peyton often watched their favorite teams on TV instead of their dad’s. (5)

As an adult, Peyton summed up his dad’s football career as “fifteen years of professional frustration.” (6) Although he worked as hard as anybody and played his heart out at games, his teams simply never got it all together.
So maybe you’re a dedicated salesman, stuck with a losing company. Or a first rate basketball player stuck with an unmotivated team. Or a highly skilled teacher, working at a school that doesn’t appreciate your contribution. Do you become bitter? Do you take your frustration out on others?

Here’s how Archie handled it:

1. He never took his frustration home. When he came home from a terrible loss, he was just good old dad, playing ball with his kids on the carpet and enjoying his dear wife. According to Cooper,
“Yes, when the booing got really bad at the Superdome, Peyton and I wanted to boo, too…and we wanted to wear the bags over our heads. But through all that, I never remember him bringing his defeats home with him. Not ever.” (7)

2. He embraced the community that booed him. As Jesus put it, “love those who hate you.” Rather than retreating inward and snubbing the community, he gave back to them, serving on the boards of a half dozen charities. Olivia also involved herself in the community. (8)

3. He refused to let bitterness take hold. Archie couldn’t understand players who, five or ten years after their pro football days, still bristled with bitterness - mad at their coaches, mad at the team owners, rooting against their former teams. Archie chose a different perspective, thanking God for every game he played, refusing to let the lack of winning ruin his enjoyment for the sport. (9)

4. He looked forward rather than backward. “I repeated the line often to myself those last few years: ‘Never look back. Never.’ And I haven’t. When I finally left the Vikings, it was an upper instead of a downer, a plus instead of a minus. Good-bye football, hello rest of my life. And hello Cooper, Peyton, and Eli, and the football I would enjoy through them. A whole new world.” (10)

And I’ve got to wonder, had Archie brought his frustrations home and taken them out on his family, might his children have gotten turned off to football or achievement altogether? Fortunately, he didn’t. He never pushed football on his kids, but Cooper became a high school football star, later playing college ball with Ole Miss until he was diagnosed with a serious spinal condition. (He followed his dad by refusing bitterness and moving on with life.) Today, Peyton and Eli are two of the NFL’s top quarterbacks, who fortunately play for winning teams.

Life got you down? Struggling with the unfairness of the way life’s turned out? Perhaps reflecting on Archie Manning’s response can help.

Sources: 1) Manning, by Archie and Peyton Manning, with John Underwood (New York: Harper Entertainment, 2001), p. 176. 2) p. 95 3) p. 96 4) p. 95 5) p. 96 6) p. 326 7) p. 142 8) pp. 143,144 9) p. 175 10) p. 177.

(Copyright J. Steve Miller, www.character-education.info, 2/15/10)

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Drew Brees and Peyton Manning Show Character