Indianapolis, IN – It’s going to be a very strange sight Sunday night when the Denver Broncos take on the Indianapolis Colts in Lucas Oil Stadium. What makes it strange is going to be seeing Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning taking the field for the first time in a uniform at LOS since that one-point playoff loss in January of 2011 to the New York Jets. He will be wearing a road white jersey in different colors and in a different helmet. To make it even stranger, he will be on the villain team, in what could be considered the house that he built.
Only a couple of other players come to mind when we think of stadiums that they built. There’s obviously the old Yankee Stadium which was known as “The House That Ruth Built.” Then there’s the United Center which is referred to as “The House That Jordan Built.”
Only Jordan ever returned to the stadium in which he built, but it was at the tail end of his career, and he was on a bad Washington Wizards team. Plus, NBA teams play in every arena every year, so this was nothing special.
This instance with Manning, however, is extremely rare. The only other comparable instance was when Joe Montana, who was with the Kansas City Chiefs, played his former team the San Francisco 49ers in 1994. What made it different, however, is Montana and the Chiefs hosted the 49ers. He never went back to Candlestick Park to play in his former stadium like Manning is.
What makes it even better is that Manning is still well in his prime, and he’s showing it. After leading the Broncos to an AFC best record in 2012 and a playoff berth to go along with a 6-0 start to the season, and breaking many records, he heads to Indianapolis to face his old team in the house that he built.
If it wasn’t for Manning, Lucas Oil Stadium wouldn’t be standing and the Colts would likely be elsewhere, playing in front of different fans. Prior to LOS, the Colts were playing in the RCA Dome right across the street. The Dome was getting old, and was the original home to the Colts since they moved to Indianapolis in 1984. Team owner Jim Irsay wanted a new stadium, but was shut down multiple times. He threw out a Hail Mary the final time and threatened that if the city didn’t approve it, he would move the team somewhere new that would have new stadium for him.
That scared fans in Indy, as they knew the Irsay family had a history of up and moving teams; they got the team after Irsay’s dad moved them from Baltimore to Indianapolis in the middle of the night. Everyone knew that would again be a possibility in Indianapolis.
But with the Colts’ success with Manning from 1998-2005, the city and fans were behind the new stadium, and in September of 2005, ground broke officially on the construction. Again, if the Colts were still struggling and didn’t have a franchise player like Manning, there’s no way this stadium would have been built, which, in turn, means the team would be gone. He single-handedly led the Colts to 10+ win seasons and made them a Super Bowl contender every single season, which led to sold out seasons and fans turning Indiana into a football state. No one wanted to lose this team or Manning.
So, in turn, this same player who was held in that high of regard and helped bring a Super Bowl World Championship, a new stadium, and kept the team in Indianapolis, is now coming back to play as a visitor. How weird is Sunday night’s game going to be?
Eric Smith is the Colts Beat Writer for Rant Sports. He’s covered the team the past four seasons and is recognized as an accredited member of the media by the Colts. Follow him on Twitter @ericsportsguru