He was joined in being selected as new Hall of Famers by four other modern-era candidates: defensive back Charles Woodson, wide receiver Calvin Johnson, guard Alan Faneca and safety John Lynch. Woodson and Johnson were, like Manning, elected in their first year of eligibility. Lynch, now the general manager of the San Francisco 49ers, joined Warren Sapp and Derrick Brooks as Hall of Famers from the defense that carried the Buccaneers to their previous Super Bowl appearance, a victory over the Oakland Raiders 18 years ago.
Former coach Tom Flores, former scout and front-office executive Bill Nunn, and former wide receiver Drew Pearson, the nominee of the Hall of Fame’s senior committee, also were chosen.
The results were announced during the NFL Honors show that aired Saturday night after voting by the Hall of Fame selectors, mostly media members, was conducted remotely last month. The process was altered by coronavirus-related considerations. Normally, voters meet in person on the day before the Super Bowl, only hours before the results are announced.
Manning’s election was a foregone conclusion. He carved out one of the most distinguished careers in NFL history over 17 seasons with the Indianapolis Colts and Denver Broncos, with five MVP awards and two Super Bowl triumphs. He was selected to 14 Pro Bowls and named first-team all-pro seven times. He ranks third in league history in passing yards behind Drew Brees and Brady, and third in career passing touchdowns behind Brady and Brees.
He became the most prominent member of quarterbacking’s first family and pulled off a successful second act of his NFL career. He spent 13 seasons with the Colts, who drafted him No. 1 in 1998, but was released after missing the 2011 season because of a career-threatening neck injury. Manning was recruited to Denver by John Elway, the Broncos executive and fellow all-time-great quarterback, and won his final MVP award and his second Super Bowl during four seasons there.
Last month in Denver, Manning’s wife, Ashley, arranged to have his former coaches, along with Pro Football Hall of Fame President David Baker, surprise him at the Broncos’ Empower Field with the news that he had been elected to the Hall of Fame. The calls went out Jan. 16, and five days later, a handful of coaches — former Colts head men Tony Dungy and Jim Caldwell, Tennessee’s Phillip Fulmer, Duke head coach and former Tennessee coordinator David Cutcliffe, and former Broncos coach Gary Kubiak — were en route to Colorado. Four others — former Broncos coach John Fox, ex-Colts coach Jim Mora and offensive coordinator Tom Moore, and Manning’s high school coach Tony Reginelli — recorded messages that were played on the stadium’s big screen.
Every chapter of Manning’s football career was represented. Even Manning’s twins, Marshall and Mosley, were in on the secret; they accompanied their father to the stadium under the premise that he would be filming lines for “Peyton’s Places,” his show on ESPN Plus, but quickly changed into Broncos and Colts jerseys after Baker told Manning he was headed to Canton, Ohio.
“I’m very honored,” Manning said during the broadcast on CBS, which showed video of the scene of him being informed of his election. “My wife, Ashley, I know, was the quarterback behind the scenes on this. I really appreciate so many people — family, friends. They’ve all been a part of my dream. It’s a special day, something I’ll always remember.”
Woodson was a nine-time Pro Bowl selection over 18 seasons as a cornerback and safety for the Raiders and Green Bay Packers. He was the NFL’s defensive player of the year in 2009 and became the first player in league history with 50 interceptions and 20 sacks. He finished with 65 interceptions, tied for the fifth most ever.
Johnson spent all nine of his NFL seasons with the Detroit Lions before retiring abruptly in 2016 at 30, one day after Manning’s retirement announcement. The relative brevity of his career raised doubts as to whether he would be a first-ballot Hall of Famer, but voters focused on his dominance. He holds the single-season record for receiving yards with 1,964 in 2012. He also had seasons with 1,681 and 1,492 yards, and he was selected to six Pro Bowls.
“The culmination of all the work, all the grind, all the ups and downs that you’ve been through — just to be able to excel at the level and be able to have the opportunity to be among such greats, I’m sleeping with a smile tonight,” Johnson said on the broadcast.
Faneca was elected in his sixth time as a modern-era finalist. He was chosen for nine straight Pro Bowls during a 13-year career spent mostly with the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Lynch was a cornerstone of the Buccaneers defense that led the way to a lopsided win over the Raiders in Super Bowl XXXVII in January 2003. He finished his 15-year career with four seasons in Denver. He was a nine-time Pro Bowl pick and reached the Hall of Fame in his eighth time as a finalist over nine years of eligibility.
In a video message posted Saturday on Twitter, Lynch said he learned he was elected Jan. 24, the NFL’s championship Sunday, when Baker traveled to his home in San Diego and surprised him with a knock on the front door. “I’m humbled; I’m honored,” Lynch said after thanking his family, teammates, coaches and colleagues over the years.
Flores was the nominee of the Hall of Fame’s coach committee. He guided the Raiders to two Super Bowl victories in the 1980s, becoming the first Hispanic coach to win the Super Bowl. Nunn, who died in 2014, was selected in the contributor category after helping build the Steelers’ dynasty of the 1970s. Pearson, who had 489 catches over 11 seasons with the Dallas Cowboys, was elected after being the nominee of the committee that considers players whose careers ended at least 25 years ago.