Peyton Manning has been an athletic star since prep school. Always winning and never seeming to face any real challenges. Ok, ok, he was labeled a post season schlep for a few years, but struggling versus not yet obtaining the most-high accolades are not the same. He has had only 2 losing seasons since being in the NFL (10 years). He has won Co-MVP, MVP, and Super Bowl MVP awards. Here is a pretty good list of achievements (you don’t have to read them all):
Major high school awards*
• 1992, 1993 Louisiana Class 2A MVP
• 1993 Gatorade Circle of Champions Award
• 1993 Atlanta TD Club’s Bobby Dodd Award
• 1993 New Orleans Quarterback Club Player of the Year
• 1993 Columbus, Ohio Touchdown Club Offensive Player of the Year
• 1993 Gatorade High School Player of the Year (National)
College awards (just some…)*
• 1994 SEC Freshman of the Year
• 1995 First-Team All-SEC
• 1996 Second-Team All-SEC
• 1996 Third-Team All-American
• 1997 Davey O’Brien Award
• 1997 Johnny Unitas Award
• 1997 NCAA QB of the Year
NFL awards (just some…)*
• NFL MVP (2003 (shared with Steve McNair), 2004, 2008)
• 1998 NFL All-Rookie First Team
• 2004 AFC Offensive Player of the Year
• 2005 Walter Payton Man of the Year Award
• 2005 Pro Bowl MVP
• 2007 Super Bowl MVP
Plus he married his college sweetheart. Seriously though, nothing I have read about Peyton smells of serious triumph over adversity. Not to say that talent and success is not born out of character and hard work. But again, I would never categorize Peyton as an underdog.
Steve Young on the other hand has led what reads to be a much more interesting career. Very successful in HS and college, but he was not so successful for many years after that. In 1984, he played a year in the struggling USFL. (He received a 40M annuity which is still paying him money today).
Things got so bad at one point that year that some of the players had to chip in money to pay their bus driver so they could get to a game. In 1985 he was signed into the NFL by the Tampa Bay Bucs. He started there for 2 years and each season they earned an inglorious record of 2-14. Steve was deemed a bust and was traded to the 49ers. It wasn’t until 1987, as Montana’s backup, that he first gained some professional success. He had good stats playing behind Montana and he stayed there for 3 years. He became SF’s starter in 1991, but his starting position was not solidified until 1993 (made ambiguous via the pending return of Montana, personal injuries, and exceptional play by Bono) even though he received the NFL MVP award in 1992.
In 1993 Young lead the 49ers to the playoffs. He passed for over 4,000 yards and was named to the Pro Bowl. 1994 would be his best season. Just under 4,000 yards passing, he surpassed Montana’s single season passer rating (112.8), was named NFL MVP, led his team to a Super Bowl victory, and was named that year’s Super Bowl MVP. The following 3 seasons, 1995-1998, Young lead the 49ers to the playoffs every year. In 1996 and 1997 Young lead the NFL with the highest passer rating and in 1998 with total number of touchdown passes (36).
1999 would see the culmination of many injury plagued years. Young would be on the receiving end of a crushing sack executed by Cardinal’s Aeneas Williams. Young had overcome 6 concussions, but number 7 would be his (on field) last and he would never return to the field of play.
Ok, in all fairness, it would be easy to assemble an awards list as robust as Peyton Manning’s above for Steve Young. And, Young has at least one award that Peyton cannot yet boast: membership in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. But what is most impressive to me is the manner in which these achievements were obtained. 1) Through failure, 2) through injuries and pain, and 3) through perseverance and heart. Young’s professional life was a true inspiration.
(PS Young didn’t get married until the ripe old age of 39.)
*These stats obtained by piece from Wikipedia