Peyton Manning and the Path to Maturity

(AP Photo)
NFL great Peyton Manning announced his retirement today. During a press conference, the 39- year-old quarterback tearfully expressed his gratitude to the many people who contributed over the years to his life and career. He thanked friends, family, fans and even foes whom he encountered in his 18 seasons in the NFL. He laughed, cried, reminisced and spoke with hope for the future.

As I watched Peyton say goodbye to professional football, I was thinking of how highly people regard him as a person. Sure, he is a stellar athlete who will most likely be inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame. Yes, he holds numerous MVP awards. I think, however, people see in him something more. They see a hardworking, sincere person who is devoted, not just to winning football games, but to God and his family as well. He is embroiled in no scandal, no off-field antics. He has not forgotten where he came from and I think we will likely see him in some leadership position in the future.

In a sports world dominated by brash, braggadocio attitudes and bad behavior, Peyton offers something different. He didn't win every football game nor triumph in every season but he never gave up. Even when he was benched earlier this season, an unhappy Peyton didn't badmouth his replacement or the head coach. He just kept trying. He kept showing up to practice. He kept going.

Commitment to excellence, be it excellence in love or excellence in sports, is not an easy task. Excellence requires sacrifice, suffering and continued formation. It requires starting over, admitting when we are wrong and beginning again. This process forms the human person and builds character and maturity.

We see this so clearly in the lives of the Saints. Their lives are examined in area of "heroic virtue." This kind of virtue isn't a one time choice but a life of pursing God and love of neighbor. This life culminates in bearing the effulgence of God. They radiate wisdom, love, peace, mercy and joy and it is so incredibly captivating. Saints aren't perfect but they immerse themselves in the mercy and love of God. They continue to let God pour out his love upon them and offer it to others in return.

True excellence and true love require maturity. It takes years of practice and much trial and triumph to develop habits and then a life of virtue.

Peyton mentioned today that he had "finished his football race." And he has. All things on this earth pass away but the maturity he has developed hopefully never will. He is a great example of someone whose good character and persistence has paid off for something better. That something better isn't money or fame or MVP trophies. It is the noble pursuit of the good and the willingness to sacrifice to get there.

You don't have to be a Broncos fan to recognize that. :)


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