Outspoken Christian NFL star Russell Wilson issued a touching tribute to Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning after the 39-year-old future Hall of Famer won his second Super Bowl Sunday night in what many believe could have potentially been his final game.
The 27-year-old Wilson, the quarterback of the Seattle Seahawks who is notorious for his dedication to his Christian faith, took the The Player's Tribune, a media website that provides professional athletes an outlet to write on their experiences and reflections, to thank Manning for all that he has done for the sport and for him personally.
In an op-ed published on Monday titled "If This IS It," Wilson stated that if Manning's last game was indeed Super Bowl 50, there was one moment that he will remember the most from Manning's illustrious career.
"From all the wins, to the few tough losses. From the 71,000 yards, to all the touchdowns, to the few interceptions. From all the meetings, to all the hard practices, to all the film, to all the blood, sweat and tears. From all the Pro Bowls, to the handful of MVPs, to the two Lombardi trophies. From all the teammates, to all the opponents, to all the fans. From the blue and white, to the blue and orange. … Sheriff, if this is it, there's one moment I won't forget," Wilson wrote. "10th grade. Louisiana. At your quarterback camp."
It was at that camp in the 10th grade that Wilson was inspired to "love" the discipline it took to be great. In the online post, Wilson also shared a picture from the camp featuring him and a large group of other aspiring high school players gathered around on one knee.
"You inspired the kid in the green shirt. You inspired me to work hard. To be disciplined. To be respectful. To take notes. You inspired me to love the process. To love the sweat. To love the tears," Wilson wrote. "But most of all … you inspired me to love the game."
"Thanks, Peyton," Wilson added. "If this is it, Thanks."
If this is it for Manning, he will conclude his 17-year career, which included 14 seasons with the Indianapolis Colts, with the all-time record in passing yards, all-time record in passing touchdowns and 14 Pro Bowl selections.
Although Manning has not yet announced whether he will retire from his playing career or return next season, many are expecting him to call it quits after he played just 10 games during an injury-stricken regular season. Even when Manning did play, he was reduced to a shell of his former self as a quarterback.
Even though the Broncos won the Super Bowl 50 with a 24-10 victory over the Carolina Panthers, Manning only threw for 141 yards, with one interception and no touchdowns.
After winning the Super Bowl, Manning said he was going to pray and thank God.
"I'm going to drink a lot of Budweiser tonight, Tracy, I promise you that," Manning said. "I'm going to take care of those things first and definitely going to say a little prayer and thank the man upstairs for this great opportunity."