Horseshoe Hero: Pro Bowl Addition
After last year’s embarrassing Pro Bowl, commissioner Roger Goodell threatened to rid the league of football’s historic All Star showcase game. But then again, Peyton Manning wasn’t in last year’s Pro Bowl. After missing the entire 2011-2012 season while recovering from a fourth next surgery, Manning returned to the NFL as a Pro Bowl-caliber quarterback, earning more votes than any other player in the league. But unlike his 11 other Pro Bowl appearances, this time he earned the honor in a different uniform.
We all know the story. The Colts went a shocking 2-14 without Manning under center, and the team released him, drafted Andrew Luck, and cut several other notable Colts legends. The Colts overachieved and made it to the Wild Card round of the playoffs with the rookie Luck, and the Manning-led Broncos made it to the AFC divisional round after going 13-3 and locking up the AFC’s top seed. Both Luck and Manning made the Pro Bowl. Everyone seemingly won.
All week at the Pro Bowl, Manning has been advocating the game’s importance, encouraging his AFC teammates to play hard with hopes that Goodell would be convinced to keep the game in place. Manning believes that his Pro Bowl experiences helped him learn valuable lessons from the legends who played alongside him. He wanted to show how special the game was.
Manning provided the best moments of the Pro Bowl by reuniting with two of his former Colts teammates. He threw 2 passes to Reggie Wayne – still a Colt – and it was a special sight to see the two hook up again on the field for old times sake. Manning and Wayne could probably run routes together in their sleep.
Later in the second quarter, something even more unprecedented occurred. Jeff Saturday, Manning’s longtime center with the Colts who signed with the Green Bay Packers of the NFC last offseason, took the field on the AFC side and lined up in front of Manning. He snapped Manning the ball, the crowd cheered, and my eyes teared up. Saturday, who has played 14 years in the NFL, will retire after the Pro Bowl. It was one of his very last snaps.
Manning did throw an impressive touchdown to AJ Green of the Cincinnati Bengals in the first quarter, but the scoring play paled in comparison to these others.
None of this would have been made possible had it not been for the Pro Bowl. These are the things that need to be kept in mind when evaluating the game’s importance in the future.