An Unexpected Lesson From Peyton Manning

Recently this strange picture of NFL QB Peyton Manning went viral:


What exactly is he doing?  Why does he have only one ankle in a pool, and why is he wearing a helmet?

The answer speaks volumes, even to those of us who only dream of playing in the NFL.

For starters, Peyton Manning is the best at what he does.

He is a Super Bowl winner, and without question a first ballot Hall-of-Famer.  He is an instantly recognizable “face of the League” to many, and represents all that is good about the NFL.  In a league filled with controversies regarding player safety, criminal acts by players, cheating  scandals, etc., he has consistently represented the positive ‘All-American’, ‘clean-cut’  side of football.  He is a polite, humble, well-mannered guy who has consistently not only stayed out of trouble, but benefited many a worthy cause.

He is still at the top of his game after a neck injury that many thought would either end or severely impact his prolific career.  Yet he has emerged in having what is perhaps his best year as a pro.

The point of saying all that is this – it didn’t just happen that way.  It took some serious effort and determination.

But back to that strange picture.

This photograph of Peyton Manning was taken during a Broncos practice.  Having sustained an ankle injury, Peyton had to sit out of practice.  His official listing was “did not participate”.

Unable to participate physically, he chose to participate mentally.  He couldn’t be on the field, but he could be active. He chose to keep his injured ankle in the “cold tub” in the team training room, and wear his helmet to listen in on practice and the plays that were called on the headset, while simultaneously studying game film on a tablet.


This is the guy who leads the league with 45 touchdowns.  His team has the best record in the NFL (11-2).  He has been a starting NFL QB since 1998.

These numbers didn’t come because he’s just ‘that good’.  It appears to be because of his attitude, and using even down moments to improve his craft instead of resting on his laurels.  This picture reflects a multi-tasking intensity that we could all apply to our life, whatever it is that we do.  Do I pray with this determination? Do I apply it to my work or home life?

Embrace this intensity, and strive to be a better husband, a better parent, a better employee, a better driver, a better writer, a better friend.  The list is extensive and personal.

In education, we often speak of the desire to see students become “lifelong learners”.  I think Peyton Manning in this candid moment is a perfect model of that.  A guy who continues to perfect his craft and keep his mind sharp on a day he could easily just do nothing and still keep his job and still be one of the best. No one but him would really know the difference. Right?

So to answer the question, what is he doing?

He’s doing exactly what I should be doing.


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