Ex-Broncos star Peyton Manning dunks on Tom Brady, Ray Lewis while John Lynch credits Bill Walsh during Hall of Fame induction speeches
Peyton Manning applauded his past and his past applauded back.
But it was the comments of the former Broncos quarterback and 2021 Pro Football Hall of Fame inductee had about his future that had Denver fans buzzing Sunday evening.
“I don’t know about you, but I’m not done with this game,” Manning said during the Hall of Fame induction ceremonies in Canton, Ohio. “I never will be. I’m committed to ensuring its future.”
Manning, who led the Broncos to a pair of Super Bowls and one championship, didn’t elaborate.
During his 9-minute speech, during which he bounced cooly from the funny to the poignant to the dry to the emotional, Manning reminded fans and peers why he was — and is — one of football’s strongest ambassadors. And why he remains one of the Front Range’s most popular figures since his retirement five years ago.
“It’s about nurturing football to thrive another day, another year, another decade and another generation,” Manning said while referencing his own family and the one he grew up in New Orleans while his father Archie quarterbacked the Saints.
Manning, who joined former Broncos safety John Lynch in the Hall’s 2021 class, spoke from the heart and with complete comfort before family, ex-teammates, fans and NFL royalty. The crowd included dozens of current and ex-Broncos, as well as coaches from the present and the past (Mike Shanahan, Gary Kubiak).
No. 18 came out firing as the third inductee to speak, razzing new Hall of Fame peers — and old rivals — one more time.
“Ray Lewis just finished the speech that he started in 2018,” Manning said with a knowing smirk, referencing the 33-minute presentation the legendary linebacker gave in August 2018.
Then it was Tom Brady’s turn.
“My good friend Tom Brady is here tonight,” Manning cracked. “By the time he is inducted, in his first year of eligibility in the year of 2035, he’ll only have time to post his acceptance speech on his Instagram account.”
Ever cool, Manning kept his direct, level head throughout his presentation, save for one moment, when he appeared to choke up while thanking his father and presenter, Archie.
Lynch, meanwhile, stressed that he would not “be here today” without his wife Linda, who wrote him a note before every game as a player and as a broadcaster.
In addition to thanking his family, mentors, coaches and former teammates, Lynch gave a special shoutout to Bill Walsh, who’d coached him at Stanford and persuaded him to concentrate on football over baseball, and told him in college that he could “be a Pro Bowl safety in the NFL.”
Lynch said Walsh later showed him film that compared plays he had made with the Cardinal to that of Ronnie Lott, whom Walsh coached with the San Francisco 49ers.
“There were only five plays on that tape,” Lynch recalled. “But after watching it, I was all-in.”
The newest Hall-of-Famers with Broncos ties have more than a few common threads to bind them. Besides being longtime friends, both NFL legends spent the second act of their pro football careers in the Mile High City.
“Nothing about my (Hall of Fame) journey has been easy,” said Lynch, the former safety who was named to the Pro Bowl four times with the Broncos from 2004-07. “I waited eight years as a finalist and then (Hall of Fame president) David Baker tells me I’m following Peyton Manning (on the program). Thanks a lot, David.”
Manning’s NFL path hit a crossroads in 2011, a season he sat out while undergoing four surgeries to his neck. On March 20, 2012, the Broncos snapped him up on a five-year, $96-million deal — a contract that proved among the shrewdest in NFL history.
“To Pat Bowlen and the Bowlen family, and the Denver Broncos organization, you took a chance on me at a crucial moment in my career and I will never forget it,” Manning said. “Thank you from the bottom of my heart.”
In the fall of 2013, No. 18 set an NFL record for touchdown passes in a single season (55) and for passing yards (5,477), steering the Broncos to an AFC title and a berth in Super Bowl XLVIII against Seattle. He started Super Bowl 50 against Carolina, completing 13 of 23 passes in a 24-10 Broncos victory, becoming the first NFL quarterback to win a championship with two different franchises.
The physical, cerebral Lynch signed with the Broncos in March 2004 at the age of 32 after 11 seasons with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and anchored some of the best defenses in franchise history.