THIBODAUX — Peyton Manning’s Super Bowl win in February was a storybook ending to a storybook career.
And as Manning reminded folks Friday, it was just that: an ending.
There’s no football itch left that he needs to scratch.
He even had the stats to prove it.
Those were his numbers this week at the Manning Passing Academy, the annual camp he and his family host at Nicholls State University.
Yes, the now 40-year-old Manning threw just one pass.
It was to a tight end.
“I underthrew him by about 5 yards,” Manning said. “That was a good reminder that I don’t need to be throwing anymore.”
Manning is totally at ease with his decision to shut it down after 18 seasons, five MVP trophies and two Super Bowl titles and a ticket to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
This is the 21st Manning camp.
He’s been there for all 21 of them. But this is the first one he has attended that won’t be followed with him trying to lead a team to a championship.
“It’s not that weird to tell you the truth,” Manning said. “I haven’t felt strange. Maybe in the fall it could be different, come September and October. I can’t tell you that. All I can tell you is I didn’t get shorted in my football career. ... I saw football from a lot of different angles, and it felt like the right time. I have not had any type of withdrawals during OTAs.”
Now, Manning gets to enjoy the game and just be a fan.
And he has a fall slate that will surely keep him busy.
He’ll be in Denver for the Broncos’ season opener when the team raises a Super Bowl banner for winning Super Bowl 50.
He’ll also attend a game in Indianapolis when the Colts commemorate the 10-year anniversary of his first Super Bowl.
And he plans to take in some college games at his alma mater.
But the team he will cheer for the most will likely be the New York Giants, where his little brother, Eli, will begin his 13th season.
“I’ve got a lot of football in my plans this fall,” Manning said. “Going to see Eli play in a regular-season game as opposed to Super Bowls, where you can’t breathe and my dad bites all of his fingernails off the entire game.”
And for the first time in his football-playing life, Eli will be the only show in town for the Manning family. He looks forward to it.
“It will be kind of fun to have Peyton come to some regular season games,” Eli said. “I’m sure he’ll be sending text messages saying, ‘You should’ve thrown it to this guy or that guy’ ... so it will be a little different for me not having my big bro playing football game and keeping up with how he’s doing.”
It will be different, but easier.
Just ask Archie and Olivia, who will no longer have to split their time between traveling to two different cities.
In years past, they would always try to divvy the trips equally.
“We kept it even,” Archie said. “Eli would never care. But Peyton would keep up.”
Now Archie gets a chance to keep up more with his hometown Saints. And he’ll get to attend more Ole Miss games, as well as scratch off some of those college stadiums that are on his bucket list. He’ll no longer have to attend one game and scramble afterward to try to catch the other one on TV.
“It will be different, that’s for sure,” Archie said.
And it’ll be especially different for Peyton, who for the first time, won’t be playing on Friday nights for Isidore Newman School or on Saturday afternoons for Tennessee or on Sundays for the Colts or the Broncos.
He’ll instead spend time with his family and just get to enjoy being a fan on the weekends.
“I think Peyton will handle it well,”Archie said. “He played a long time and got a lot out of it.”
But Peyton will likely still be around the game of football.
He’s been around it this offseason. He threw some passes on the White House lawn to some wounded warriors.
He attended a Miami Dolphins practice recently, where two of his friends are coaches. He was told beforehand that attending practice would probably make him miss the game.
“I didn’t feel that way,” he said. “I felt normal.”
He’ll also continue helping each year with the Manning Camp, hoping to help produce perhaps the next Peyton Manning.
“This (camp) was always a great reminder of why we love football, right before training camp starts,” Peyton said. “Nobody complains about how hot it is or how tired they are. They love football, and they go to work.”
And like the campers, Peyton still loves football. Always will. But now he no longer has to go to work. And he’s fine with that.
You could see it on his face after he finished addressing the media Friday.
He walked over to the side of the room where Archie was sitting.
Peyton gave his dad a fist bump.
Then Eli took his turn at the podium.
Fittingly, the two retired guys were on the side watching.