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OPINION | WALLY HALL: Peyton the person is an even bigger superstar

by Wally Hall | September 6, 2023 at 2:30 a.m.

It took less than five hours to not just sell out, but forced Little Rock Touchdown Club founder David Bazzel to get a bigger venue to hear Peyton Manning.

The previous attendance record was 700, and that was for Sam Pittman.

On Tuesday, 1,300 places were set for lunch to hear Manning, the two-time Super Bowl champion quarterback.

So how does a guy who was raised in New Orleans, played college football at Tennessee and professionally with Indianapolis and Denver become such a big draw in Arkansas?

Simple, he transcends football.

He's a bona fide celebrity who cherishes his privacy and family life. Who quietly gives back to his community. Who doesn't seek the limelight, it just naturally follows the charismatic 47-year-old.

In other words, he's a typical Manning.

Dad Archie and mom Olivia are that way -- his brothers Eli and Cooper, too.

In 1997 Kenyana Tolbert, a starting defensive back for North Little Rock High School, suffered a vertebrae injury that left him a quadriplegic.

Manning was a senior at Tennessee and his chances of learning about the injury to a young man who was going to Oklahoma State on a football scholarship were slim and none.

Tolbert's release from Baylor Hospital in Dallas was delayed because he didn't have a handicap-accessible home.

A fundraiser was held and in the days of planning, several schools, conferences, the NFL and NBA were asked if they could donate something, anything for a charity auction.

Tennessee responded with a polite note that it was against school policy.

A few days later, a package was received. There was no note, just an official Tennessee football jersey, No. 16 autographed.

Keith Ingram, of Razorback Concrete fame in West Memphis and later a state senator, is very good friends with Archie Manning. Ingram takes no credit for the jersey, but it brought the highest bid of the night as $108,000 was raised.

A side note to that was a house equipped for handicap living was found in Maumelle for about that price, and the good news was shared in this space.

A Little Rock businessman, who required his name not be used, read the column and personally bought the house for Tolbert, which enabled his mom to buy a handicap-equipped van that gave her son, who not once felt sorry for himself, the opportunity to attend UALR and sporting events. He died in 2009.

Manning, the first player taken in the 1998 NFL Draft, spent 18 seasons in the NFL, starting 265 of 266 games.

The guy whose arm strength and mobility were questioned ended up passing for 71,940 yards and 539 touchdowns. The shocking statistic was he ran for 18 touchdowns. No one every confused his running with his dad's, who was quick, agile and fast.

No one outworked Peyton Manning. No one was more driven to win.

Once, in preparation for a playoff game that had a forecast of heavy rains, Manning spent every practice minute that week using football that were kept in a water bucket so they would be like game conditions. The Broncos won that game.

Since his career ended, he's all over television doing commercials and hosting a show with his brother Eli. He even hosted "Saturday Night Live."

Those are some things everyone knows about Peyton the quarterback.

Peyton the person has a children's hospital in Indianapolis, and rumor was he waived his usual speaking fee for a donation to that hospital.

Long time NFL official Walt Coleman shared that he figured he called NFL games that included 25,000 players during his career, and when he retired he got one congratulatory note on his career.

It was handwritten by Peyton Manning.

Print Headline: Peyton the person is an even bigger superstar


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