ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Peyton Manning said he’s not sure he’s deserving of the 2013 Sports Illustrated Sportsman of the Year honor but is glad to be in such elite company that includes the likes of former Tennessee women’s basketball coach Pat Summitt.
Manning was recognized at a banquet at Sports Authority Field on Monday night.
Manning has led Denver to an 11-3 record this season, his second with the Broncos after missing the 2011 season with Indianapolis because of neck troubles that affected his right triceps. He has thrown 47 touchdown passes, three shy of Tom Brady’s NFL season record, with two games left.
Manning is the fourth NFL quarterback to take the honor in the past nine years, following Brady in 2005, Brett Favre in 2007 and Drew Brees in 2010. LeBron James was the winner last year.
“It means a great deal and for one, I really accept this award on behalf of a lot of people that have helped me,” Manning said. “I realized that being injured and coming back from an injury and playing is probably a large reason why I received this award.
“It’s just a great way to show how grateful I am for all the people that have helped me and supported me: my family, teammates and coaches on many different levels, college coaches, pro coaches and teammates, and so I really accept that on behalf of them.
“I do feel that my comeback has inspired some people. I’ve received letters saying that. It’s good to know that those people are working harder and doing better because maybe I’ve given them some hope.”
Chris Stone, the magazine’s managing editor, said Manning beat out two worthy candidates in baseball: “Mariano Rivera, who kind of embodies a career of excellence ... and David Ortiz, what he kind of symbolized for the Red Sox toward the end of the season and how he was kind of the face of a team that went from worst to first.”
Stone said Manning’s honor was in a sense a lifetime achievement award.
“If you were to ask a 7- or 8-year-old kid what’s an example of sportsmanship, I don’t think you could ask for a more obvious example than when after a really tough loss last January, he took the time out to go speak with Ray Lewis,” Stone said of Manning’s visit to the Ravens’ locker room after a double-overtime loss in the playoffs.
Stone said that gesture “alone isn’t the reason we chose him as Sportsman of the Year. It’s not even one of the primary reasons we chose him. But I think it speaks to the type of athlete and individual that Manning is.”