Monthly Archives: January 2007

A Smile Thirteen Years in the Making

It’s taken me until today to put my thoughts completely together, but this is what I’ve come up with…

It was early one Saturday morning in the fall of 1993. Well, early by this high school sophomore’s (at the time) standards. I had probably slept in as much as possible following the previous night’s high school football game, but was up nonetheless to enjoy a tradition that my brother and I had started unbeknownst to both of us. We watched a show together on Saturday mornings in stone silence. It was a high school football recruitment show that highlighted area talent who were being recruited for college. This particular Saturday morning, a young 17 year old high school senior quarterback from New Orleans, LA was highlighted, but I didn’t understand why at first since he was not from the area I lived in. At this point in my life, I was just beginning to enjoy and understand football, so history was nearly lost on me when they said he was the middle son of former NFL quarterback Archie Manning. The stone silence was broken so my brother could educate me. But from that moment on, from that interview footage of him playing catch with his father in the front yard, I was hooked. People always talk about athletes having that special something, that one thing that lets you know that they’re going to make it and make it big. I didn’t understand all that jargon until that morning. I watched that tall, skinny kid with dirty-blonde hair smile and talk about football like he was a textbook on the subject. I can’t say for certain if he had committed to Tennessee at that point, but that’s where he ended up. I had not at that point chosen or even thought about Alabama, so I didn’t know the heated rivalry between the two schools and really wouldn’t for another 2-3 years.

This past fall marked 13 years since Peyton Manning entered my life through a TV screen and 13 years since I first saw what everyone else on this earth finally knows. I’ve been through 13 seasons of football watching him even though he didn’t take his first snap until the 4th game of his freshman season and only because he was next in the depth chart after everyone else got hurt. But since he took that first snap he has started every game of his career: college and pro (pre, regular, and post season). He is a workhorse in more ways than one: in the film room, in the weight room, on the practice field, in the game, and on the sidelines. He never stops thinking about that next play and what he needs to do to make it successful. In those 13 seasons, I’ve watched and felt a lot of losses, but the wins…oh the wins. I’ve seen a few to say the least. I’ve been amazed and proud and excited, but there was always something. There was always that group of people who doubted.

In college, it was the ones who couldn’t get past the fact that Tennessee didn’t beat Florida while Peyton was in college since it was Florida’s 11 guys against Peyton, not Florida’s 11 guys against Tennessee’s 11 guys. Has anyone ever stopped to mention the fact that the time in which Peyton was in college was (and I hate to say this) the high time for Florida football? I mean come on, Florida won the national championship Peyton’s junior year of college. There’s even people out there (and these people really disgust me) who think that Tennessee won the national championship during Peyton’s rookie season in the NFL BECAUSE Peyton wasn’t there anymore. That’s just hurtful to honestly believe that the success or failure rests on the shoulders of one individual in a team sport. In the pros, it’s been the Patriots with the group always saying it was Manning vs. Belichick or Manning vs. Brady or Manning vs. The Patriots. Never the Colts vs. the Patriots. I’ve often wondered how these reporters got their job if they don’t fundamentally understand that there are 22 guys on the field at one time and none of those 22 guys is Bill Belichick nor are Manning and Brady ever on the playing field at the same time. But, I digress.

I knew this day would come. This day when the Colts would make it to the Super Bowl. I’ve never been a firm believer in the idea that a Super Bowl appearance or a Super Bowl win makes you any better of a football player than when you walked on that field at the beginning of the game. I think every player is the same player. There’s just another bullet point on their resume. But for the naysayers, for the doubters, I wanted this win. It’s not a monkey that was on their backs; it was a group of reporters who don’t have anything better to report. But if you want to call them monkeys, I’m cool with that.

I woke up early that Saturday morning in April 1998, well early for this college sophomore (at the time). I left my room so my roommate could continue sleeping and went into the living room of our dorm suite and watched the first pick of the NFL draft. Peyton was pacing back and forth in his holding room (they have tables now), and I was just as nervous. Then Paul Tagliabue said it and he said it in a different way than he has said every other NFL draft pick. Normally, he says, “With the V pick in the draft the W team selects X player, Y position, Z school.” That morning he said, “With the V pick in the draft, the W team selects, Z school, Y position, X player.” Oh the suspense. Though when he said University of instead of Washington State, I knew that Peyton was the #1 pick. The entire week leading up to the draft, all we ever heard was would Peyton or Ryan Leaf go first. After that, I turned off the TV and went back to bed. There was much work to do; however, in learning to be a Colts fan…

As the first pick in the draft, Peyton became the starting quarterback for a team coming off a 3-13 season with a new head coach in Jim Mora, Sr. Again, I believed. I’ve blocked most of his rookie season out of my head as the Colts went on to its second season with a 3-13 record, and Peyton threw 2 more interceptions than touchdown passes that season. The next season would be different, I believed. And it was. With the exception of Peyton’s rookie season and the 2001 season (Coach Mora’s last and a season when Edgerrin James was injured), the Colts have gone to the playoffs every season of Peyton’s NFL career so far. This is Peyton’s 9th NFL season.

Thirteen years ago this all began. Thirteen years ago, I believed this would one day happen. My love for Peyton has grown over the years, and as much as he is a textbook on football, I’m probably a textbook on him, all 6’5”, 230 pound QB, laser rocket arm of him. But it’s grown in ways I never imagined. It’s grown in Dwight Freeney, Jeff Saturday, Tarik Glenn, Bob Sanders, Marvin Harrison, Reggie Wayne, Marlin Jackson, Nick Harper, Booger McFarland, Matt Giordano, Rob Morris, Ryan Lilja, Ryan Diem, Hunter Smith, Justin Snow, Adam Vinatieri, Dallas Clark, Bryan Fletcher, Joseph Addai, Dominic Rhodes, Kelvin Hayden, Cato June, Antoine Bethea, Rocky Boiman, Dan Klecko, Gary Brackett, Robert Mathis, Terrence Wilkins, Coach Dungy, Coach Moore, Coach Caldwell, Coach Meeks, Bill Polian, and Jim Irsay. I have become not only a Peyton Manning fan but a Colts fan. I have found in this organization, a group of people who believe faith and family comes before football, who believe that success comes from giving glory to God, never giving up, and never losing faith, and who believe they are a family first and foremost.

On Sunday, I almost lost my belief. I almost went to bed at halftime. But I remembered a promise I made earlier in the season. I promised that I wouldn’t give up on them. I wouldn’t stop believing. I would be in this for the long haul no matter how many years it took. Even if they never saw the light of day at a Super Bowl until Peyton was long gone from the NFL, I would never stop believing. And so, I stayed up, and I stayed in my seat on the couch only moving to get clothes out of the washer or dryer. And what a reward staying up was. I watched as 53 men and their coaches said, 18 points, so what, don’t give up, don’t count us out, this is a 60 minute game, let’s make play after play after play, and let’s get it done. I cried. I crawled across the room to kiss the TV when Joseph Addai ran in untouched for the final score of the game. I crawled back to the TV when Marlin Jackson intercepted the ball with 16 seconds on the clock in the 4th quarter. I hyperventilated for 10 minutes and had to rewind to the interception to see the last 16 seconds since I missed them through the hyperventilating and crying.

There are snapshots in my head that pop up at the weirdest times. I’ll be driving down the road and the snapshot of Joseph scoring will pop up. The snapshot of Peyton taking a knee (MY VERY FAVORITE PLAY OF THE WHOLE NIGHT) will pop up. The snapshot of Marvin Harrison catching the 2 point conversion on a catch only he could make will pop up. The snapshot of Dallas Clark’s 52 yard reception will pop up. But my favorite snapshot that pops in my head is what I call The Smile. The camera caught Peyton’s reaction when Marlin caught the interception. In thirteen years, I’ve seen Peyton smile a lot, but never like that. It was of pure satisfaction, of relief, of it’s about time, and a little bit of we did it together. I’ve waited thirteen years for that smile. And all I can say is it was worth the wait. I know there’s one more game. I know this isn’t over by a long shot. I know the Bears are going to bring everything they’ve got, but for the rest of my life, I will never forget The Smile.

New Addition

Here she is ladies and gentleman:
Best Buy Page (I paid a lot less for this TV than what the website says.)

She was adopted on Saturday morning and will be delivered to my house on January 30th (Katherine and Nelson will be receiving the shipment because they’re just awesome like that). And, just so you know, it was not because I had confidence we would win on Sunday night. In fact, I was sick as a dog from the NFC championship trophy presentation after the Bears game all the way through the 1st half. I almost gave up and went to bed after the interception in the 2nd quarter, but I just couldn’t leave my boys like that. My decision to give up on my plan to not buy the Big Screen until they actually made the Super Bowl came around the week after the regular season loss to Tennessee at the beginning of December. It wasn’t that I’d given up on them because I’ve always believed they could make it to the Super Bowl if the correct three units came to play in the same game. It was more that I decided that their ability to win football games was not dependent on my ability to overcome living in low-def (did you see that commercial?). Funny how a little thing like giving up your promise to the “football gods” makes a porous defense close up holes. Because when I started to look at different TV model choices, it was around the start of the playoffs. Regardless, I’ve already ordered the HD-DVR from Cox (even got an extra $100 off the TV for going through Best Buy to order it) and will be picking it up this weekend so it will there when she arrives a week from today!!!

My question to all y’all out in cyberspace…she needs a name. Any suggestions?

Still Breathing

I have waited a LOOOOONNNNNGGGG time for these pictures. I realize there’s one more game to go, but these images from last night will never leave my head.

This is Alabama Football

Yes I know I’m a little late in reporting this, but these past couple weeks have been odd to say the least. In any case, I cannot say enough about DeMeco Ryans and how proud I am of him for being named the Defensive Rookie of the Year for the NFL. He represents everything that I love about Alabama football because he was a true student-athlete at the Capstone; graduating with honors while leading the Crimson Tide to a 10-2 record during his senior season. He also won the NCAA Top VIII award given each year to the 8 student athletes out of ALL NCAA student-athletes who excel in the classroom, on the field, and in the community. His performance during his rookie season in the NFL may have surprised some, but not me. I knew what he was capable of, and even though they changed his position when he signed with the Texans, he took that position and made it his own including more tackles than any other rookie linebacker has ever made. ROLL TIDE ROLL, DeMeco!

Ryans wins dual honors

January 03, 2007

HOUSTON – The Associated Press announced today that Houston Texans LB DeMeco Ryans was named Defensive Rookie of the Year, becoming the first Texans player to win the honor. Ryans received 72 percent of the vote (36 of 50 votes). Ryans also discovered later in the day that he was named NFL Defensive Rookie of the Month for December.

Ryans, the team’s second-round draft pick (33rd overall) out of Alabama, finished the season with 156 tackles, including 126 solo stops, based on press box statistics. His 156 total tackles were more than any rookie in the last 20 years. Ryans led the NFL in solo tackles and finished second in total tackles.

In December, Ryans led the Texans to wins in three of the team’s final five games, totaling 57 tackles, one interception, one sack, one forced fumble, one fumble recovery and five passes defensed during the stretch. Only Miami Dolphins Pro Bowl linebacker Zach Thomas had more tackles in that period.

Ryans (6-1, 239) recorded 10 or more tackles in nine of 16 games, more than any other defender in the league, and four more than any other rookie. He led the team or tied for the team lead in tackles 10 times. In addition to his historic tackle numbers, Ryans finished tied for the lead among rookie inside linebackers with 3.5 sacks and finished second among rookie linebackers with one interception.

Ryans was named AFC Defensive Player of the Week after Houston’s 23-14 win over Oakland in Week 13 (12/3). In that game, he finished with 15 tackles (14 solo), an interception, a fumble recovery, a sack, a forced fumble and three passes defensed. Ryans became the only player in the NFL this season to record double-digit tackles, a sack, interception, forced fumble and fumble recovery in a single game.

The rookie middle linebacker burst onto the scene in his professional debut, tallying 13 tackles (12 solos) against Philadelphia. He finished the year strong, recording double-digit tackles in five of his last six games.

Ryans played an integral role in the Texans’ defensive improvement over the last three months of the season. Over the last 14 weeks of the season, Houston ranked 10th in the league in total defense and 13th in scoring defense.

Texans DE Mario Williams received one vote, making the Texans the only team with multiple players garnering a vote.