While no NFL team wants to suffer through a miserable losing season, everyone dreams of using the first overall pick to land a franchise quarterback. That’s exactly where the Indianapolis Colts found themselves in 1998. They, of course, would select Peyton Manning setting the stage for roughly a decade of dominance.
During the pre-draft process, though, the Colts also considered selecting Ryan Leaf. Peyton Manning, however, threatened to kick his future boss’ butt if he didn’t get the job; while that’s definitely an unconventional strategy, it paid off in the end.
Peyton Manning’s road to the pros
Once he made it to the NFL, Peyton Manning developed into a legitimate star. During college, however, the quarterback was already showing plenty of potential.
As the son of Archie Manning, Peyton had football in his blood. After a strong high school career, the young quarterback had his pick of college programs; rather than following in his father’s footsteps, he enrolled at the University of Tennessee.
Manning began his college career as the third quarterback on the depth chart, but took over the starting job by the end of his freshman year. He ended up spending four seasons in Knoxville, throwing for a grand total of 11,201 yards and 89 touchdowns; as a senior, he won several awards as the collegiate player of the year, but finished second in Heisman Trophy voting, losing out to Charles Woodson.
Threatening both the Indianapolis Colts’ future and Bill Polian’s butt
For all of Peyton Manning’s NCAA success, he wasn’t a guaranteed first-overall pick. The Colts had to choose between him and Ryan Leaf.
While that choice seems laughable in retrospect, things were less clear cut in 1998. Some were skeptical of Manning’s athleticism and lack of foot speed; Leaf, at least at the time, seemed capable of doing anything under center.
With draft day rapidly approaching, the Colts still hadn’t made a decision. Manning, understandably, began to get impatient and wanted to know who the club would select. After taking his physical, the quarterback passed by Bill Polian’s office; there, he gave the general manager a stern warning.
“He gets up to leave,” Polian told Jarrett Bell of USA Today, “and says, ‘I’ll leave you with this thought: If you take me, I promise you we will win a championship. If you don’t, I promise I’ll come back and kick your ass.”
Polian never forgot those words, and, on draft night, Peyton Manning became an Indianapolis Colt.
Peyton Manning lived up to his word once he joined the Colts
In the days leading up to the 1998 NFL draft, Peyton Manning gave the Indianapolis Colts an ultimatum. Once he joined the club, the quarterback lived up to his word.
While Manning’s rookie year was a bit of a mixed bag—he piled up plenty of yards and touchdowns but also threw 26 interceptions—his talent was plain to see. Before long, the Colts were a playoff team, and Peyton was the cream of the NFL crop. By the time he left Indianapolis, the quarterback had piled up 54,828 passing yards, 539 touchdowns, and claimed multiple MVP awards. He also fulfilled his promise by bringing the Lombardi Trophy back to Indy in February 2007.
If you asked a career coach, it’s probably a bad idea to threaten your potential boss’ during a job interview. For Peyton Manning, however, everything worked out pretty well.