See, I first came to love Peyton through the TN Vols. Actually, that isn't true. I grew up with my daddy loving Archie Manning and therefore all the Manning boys. I kept my allegiance to Peyton, because, well, Eli played for Old Miss and I was too young to really watch and understand the game when Archie was playing. Don't get me wrong, I think the entire family is a stand up family and I have the utmost respect for them all and how they have carried themselves in the public eye, but I am devoted to Peyton.
See, when I was old enough and interested enough to watch football we were and still are die heart TN Vol fans. That being said, I pulled for any team Peyton was playing for and in turn, so did Chad.
Chad was as crazy about Peyton as I am. Chad had already decided long ago when/if he had a son his name would be Peyton and there was no negotiating that fact.
When Chad deployed to Afghanistan in 2010 he was scheduled to return home almost on his 23rd birthday. I wanted to do something special for him since he had spent 2 birthdays overseas in a war zone so I did some checking and was able to obtain a signed picture of Peyton Manning. Yes, I know that they send millions of these out to so many fans, but I choose to believe this was specifically sent to me for Chad. I received the picture pretty quickly and I received a phone call from Chad from Afghanistan within days of receiving it. I was so excited that I literally could not wait for his return to tell him about it so I spilled the beans (again, if you know me, this comes as no surprise). He could not have been more excited! In fact, all he could say is, "that's crazy, mom", "that's just crazy", "how did you do that?". This went on for several seconds and suddenly the call dropped! I was crushed at first because I didn't get to tell him I loved him before I lost him, but then remembering the excitement and literally being able to see the smile on his face through the phone was enough for me. I held on to that call and said the next call I will just tell him I love him first.
Sadly that was my very last phone call with Chad. He died days after that while on patrol. I had planned to have the picture framed for him so I could give it to him in California when he returned home from deployment.
After some time past after Chad was taken from us I decided to write Peyton and tell him thank you for the greatest last phone call a mother could have ever asked for. I wasn't sure he would ever get the letter so I decided to send the local paper in Indianapolis (since he was still a Colt at that time) a note to let them know the kind of man they had as their star quarterback. To my amazement I received a personal hand written note from Peyton on his personal stationary along with the clipping of the article I sent to his local paper. Here is what his note to me said...
I am very sorry for your loss. I was happy to hear that your son was excited to hear of his autograph before his passing.
I am very grateful as an American for your son fighting for our country. Please know that you and your family are in my thoughts and prayers.
At the bottom he wrote this scripture... Mathew 5:4 "Blessed are these who mourn for they will be comforted"
I was so touched that he would take the time to not only write this note to us, but to include a scripture and the clipping from the paper that I had Chad's autographed picture and the letting and news paper article framed and it hangs in our office today across from a picture of Chad.
It's not that we as a nation just lost a quarterback, the game of football (in my opinion) lost a great example of a stand up man who is genuine and sincere. I will miss seeing him on the field each football season, but I know we will see him doing great things going forward.