DENVER — Peyton Manning understood how he and John Lynch were connected, and he was not going to let anything break up that bond.
Not even Hall of Fame president David Baker’s desire to keep their Hall of Fame Zoom press conference moving along on Sunday morning.
Manning and Lynch both had extended stays with their original NFL teams: Manning for 13 seasons as quarterback with the Indianapolis Colts, and Lynch for 11 seasons as safety with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Both had serious neck injuries and surgeries that caused them to be released by their original teams – Manning and Lynch, at different times, each referred to their releases as “getting fired.”
Then each had a successful, four-season second career chapter with the Denver Broncos. Lynch made four Pro Bowls in his four seasons in Denver, while Manning earned three Pro Bowls and a Super Bowl ring.
A question was presented to both to describe that second, four-year stint with the Broncos. The quarterback jumped in and said he would take it first.
> Video above: Peyton Manning elected to Hall of Fame.
“As we’ve talked about many a time, coming to Denver was an anxious period of time coming off an injury, learning new teammates, new coaches — a lot of the same things Tom Brady is having to go through right now,’’ said Manning, who played in Denver from 2012-15 and has lived here ever since. “I was nervous. I didn’t know how it was going to play out, but Denver and the Broncos organization — John Elway, John Fox, Mr. Bowlen — I remember having a couple conversations with him that first year even though his health was declining. Everybody made me feel welcomed, and that was really helpful in that transition period into the second chapter of my football career.
“I felt really lucky to play four wonderful years there and be a part of another championship team. As I’ve said many times, it’s not what I wanted because I always wanted to play for the team that drafted me. I think every player should shoot for that goal, but not many get to do it. John Elway got to do it, Troy Aikman, Dan Marino and my brother Eli got to do it.
“Things happen, and injuries come into play, and you have to find somewhere else to play," Manning said. "Denver was the best place for me. I’m really proud of my time there with the Denver Broncos.”
Then it was Lynch’s turn, but Baker, who was directing the press conference, may have forgot by the time Manning was finished with his thorough answer. Baker moved on to the next reporter for the next question before Lynch could answer. Wait a minute. Hold on.
“Hey, real quick,’’ Manning said, jumping in. “Let’s let John answer that question about the Broncos. I don’t want to run this press conference here but …”
“Excuse me,’’ Baker said with a smile. “Go ahead, John."
“I’m shocked, Peyton taking over,’’ Lynch said, laughing. “He’s calling plays.’’
And then Lynch talked about his four seasons in Denver from 2004-07.
“It's interesting right now thinking the parallels because it's the same thing,’’ Lynch said. “I dreamed of finishing my career in Tampa, but injuries made it such that we kind of agreed to move on, and I'll never forget (then Broncos coach) Mike Shanahan saying, 'I think this is the perfect place for you.'
“I think the one thing Peyton will agree on because I've talked with him about this, it does kind of reignite you. You get in a comfort zone even though you try with all your power not to get in a comfort zone, but driving to work it's different. It kind of wakes up your senses, and Peyton can attest to this as well because he's still living there, and I promised him that I'd forever be there when we recruited him to Denver, but circumstances brought us back out to California, but it was such a great place to live.
“Such a first-class organization. Pat Bowlen, Mike Shanahan, 'Greek' (Director of Sports Medicine Steve Antonopulos) the trainer who's been there, they did things right, and Mr. Bowlen was such a tremendous man and he was all about winning and he was all about facilitating anything that it took to win. He was an owner that was there all the time but wasn't doing people's jobs for them. He was just there to let you know he cared and wanted to do everything he could to win, and it was such a great move for myself and our family. Our kids were really raised there.
“And then for our football, we unfortunately didn't win a world championship. We got to the AFC Championship — myself and my teammates and we came close — but man it was four great years, and I'm so thankful to the Broncos and everybody in Denver for making it such a wonderful place," Lynch said. "We ended up staying there for 11 years, and it will forever be a part of the Lynch family and our charitable efforts that people supported.”
There are three gifts for new Hall of Famers – the Gold Jacket, their bronze bust and their Hall of Fame ring. In recent years, the ring is presented during halftime at one of their team’s home games. Although Manning played considerably more for the Colts and Lynch for the Bucs, look for both to also have a ceremony at Empower Field at Mile High during one of the Broncos’ games.
Manning can get his during his Broncos’ Ring of Fame induction along with Shanahan – who was elected into the team’s hall of fame last year but his ceremony was postponed because of the COVID pandemic. Lynch can marry up with Broncos safety Steve Atwater – who was elected into the Pro Football Hall of Fame last year but had his ceremonies postponed because of the COVID pandemic – for another home game at Mile High.
Given their deep connection, it was only fitting that Manning and Lynch partnered up for their joint Hall of Fame press conference.
“I got to know Peyton through competing against him, and then really at Pro Bowls (In Hawaii),’’ Lynch said. “At Pro Bowls, I think our wives would tell you that it was a little nauseating because we would sit there and talk football for hours – and drink Mai Tais for hours – as we shared our love of the game and really just started to see that we had a lot of commonalities as you do with so many people at the Pro Bowls.
“I'm so proud to go in — there's Hall of Famers and then there's guys like Peyton that are some of the greatest players ever to play, and so it's an honor to go in with him for sure,” Lynch said.
Said Manning: “The Pro Bowl, unfortunately, is kind of losing it’s fastball. It’s before the Super Bowl now and a lot of players aren’t playing. It once was a really good thing and a cool thing. What was cool about it was you got to know the people you were competing against, and you got to talk to them about how they worked in the offseason and the kind of film study. …
“The fact that John and I still have a professional friendship and the fact that he and I received this news the same year — I’m very honored by that and to be with him along with all the other inductees this year,” Manning said.
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