Peyton Manning is undeniably one of the most talented football player, frequently dominating the field as the quarterback for the Denver Broncos and earning the title of five-time league MVP for the NFL.
But for Peyton, the most important aspect of his life is not fame or fortune, but his Christian faith.
In a book titled Manning penned with his father, Peyton discusses his faith and how his deep belief in prayer has encouraged him throughout his years as a top-ranking football star.
"My faith has been number one since I was thirteen years old and heard from the pulpit on a Sunday morning in New Orleans a simple question: "If you died today, are you one hundred percent sure you'd go to heaven?" Cooper was there and Eli [Peyton's two brothers] but it didn't hit them at the time the way it did me. It was a big church, and I felt very small, but my heart was pounding. The minister invited those who would like that assurance through Jesus Christ to raise their hands, and I did. Then he invited us to come forward, to take a stand, and my heart really started pounding. And from where we sat, it looked like a mile to the front.
But I got up and did it. And I committed my life to Christ, and that faith has been most important to me ever since. Some players get more vocal about it-the Reggie Whites, for example-and some point to Heaven after scoring a touchdown and praise God after games. I have no problem with that. But I don't do it, and don't think it makes me any less a Christian. I just want my actions to speak louder, and I don't want to be more of a target for criticism than I already am. Somebody sees you drinking a beer, which I do, and they think, "Hmmmm, Peyton says he's this, that, or the other, and there he is drinking alcohol. What's that all about?"
Manning, who married wife Ashley Thompson in 2001 and has two young children, also focuses on the importance of prayer, humility, and total reliance on God.
Christians drink beer. So do non-Christians. Christians also make mistakes, just as non-Christians do. My faith doesn't make me perfect, it makes me forgiven, and provides me the assurance I looked for half my life ago. But I also think I've been blessed-having so little go wrong in my life, and being given so much. I pray every night, sometimes long prayers about a lot of things and a lot of people, but I don't talk about it or brag about it because that's between God and me, and I'm no better than anybody else in God's sight.
But I consider myself fortunate to be able to go to Him for guidance, and I hope (and pray) I don't do too many things that displease Him before I get to Heaven myself. I believe, too, that life is much better and freer when you're committed to God in that way.
...I pray... I use whatever talent I have to the best of my ability. But I don't think God really cares about who wins football games, except as winning might influence the character of some person or group.
Manning is a firm believer in giving back to the community as well. His charity, the Peyback Foundation, helps disadvantaged children and focuses its efforts in Louisiana, Tennessee, and Indiana. St. Vincent Hospital in Indianapolis also renamed its children's hospital to "Peyton Manning Children's Hospital at St. Vincent" after Manning and his wife made a donation of an undisclosed amount to the hospital.
"Dad says it can take twenty years to make a reputation, and five minutes to ruin it," writes Manning.
"I want my reputation to be able to make it through whatever five-minute crises I run into. And I'm a lot more comfortable knowing where my help is" (Manning, pp. 362-364).