It's now official - Peyton Manning is retiring. After contemplating stepping away from the game following earning his second Super Bowl ring last February, he has opted to call it a career. He walks away the same season as Charles Woodson, who was drafted three spots behind him in the 1998 draft. Setting the two legendary NFL players to meet up five years from now in Canton Ohio as first ballot Hall of Famers.
What a career these two had. They were two of just three players from the 1998 draft still playing in the NFL last season (Matt Hasselbeck was the other).
Manning holds just about every NFL passing record. Here are a few notable ones:
- NFL career passing touchdown record: 539
- Most passing yards, career: 71,940
- Single season touchdown record (2013): 55
- Most passing yards, season (2013): 5,477
- Most wins (including playoffs): 200
- Most game-winning drives: 56
- Most comeback wins: 45
- Most seasons passing for 4,000+ yards: 14
- Most AP NFL MVP awards: 5 (2003, 2004, 2008, 2009, 2013)
- First team All Pro: 7
- Pro Bowls: 14
- Super Bowl champion: 2
While Manning was lighting up defenses at the quarterback position, Charles Woodson was making quarterbacks lives difficult. Here are a few of his notable stats:
- Most defensive touchdowns career: 13
- Second most interceptions return for TD: 11
- Fifth most Interceptions career: 65
- Super Bowl champion (XLV)
- Pro Bowls: 9 (1998-2001, 2008-2011, 2015)
- First-team All-Pro: 4 (1999, 2001, 2009, 2011)
- Defensive Player of the Year (2009)
- Defensive Rookie of the Year (1998)
- Interceptions leader season: 2 (2009, 2011)
- Only ever Primarily Defensive Heisman Trophy winner
- One of two ever to win College Football National Championship, Heisman Trophy, Rookie of the Year, and Super Bowl (Marcus Allen was the other).
Much was made of the meeting last season between these two long time NFL heavyweights. That would be their final meeting and Woodson came into the game having never intercepted Manning. He picked him off twice in the game, as the Raiders very nearly beat Peyton Manning for the first time since he joined the Broncos four seasons ago.
It was later in the season when the Raiders would beat the eventual Super Bowl Champion Broncos without Peyton on the sideline injured.
Woodson accomplished the seemingly improbable, but making the Pro Bowl in his 18th season at the age of 39. Manning had a forgettable regular season, and easily the worst of his career. But the Broncos elite defense kept the Broncos as a top seed, allowing Peyton to return from injury in time for the playoffs. So, a week after Woodson took the field in Hawaii for his final game as an NFL player, Manning took the field in Santa Clara for Super Bowl 50 as his final NFL game.
Both going out on top. Just as it should be.
There is no doubt whatsoever that Peyton and Charles will take the stage together in Canton in five years. When they are on the ballot for the first time, the discussion will be about who OTHER than them will be inducted.
Just as they were classmates in 1998 entering the league, they will be classmates once again in 2021, immortalized in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.