Eric Moore, Greenwood
Center Grove football coach Eric Moore doesn’t remember Elvis leaving the building, but does remember him arriving.
Early in Peyton Manning’s professional football career he came to the high school to address Center Grove students the week before prom about being responsible and making good decisions.
Manning paced nervously inside one of the gymnasium locker rooms as he rehearsed the speech he was about to deliver.
“Quite frankly, he was scared to death to talk,” said Moore, who only a couple years earlier met the quarterback during a summer football camp at the University of Tennessee.
“The funny thing about that day at Center Grove was that to settle him down I showed him a film of my high school team in Florida (Charlotte High School in Punta Gorda) against Edgerrin James’ high school team. It was a big day.”
Moore still has the photograph of him shaking hands with Manning, both men noticeably younger in appearance than today.
The two haven’t cross paths since but will have plenty to talk about if they do.
Moore since taking over the Trojans’ program in 1999 has gone on to win 161 games — an average of 9.5 per season — at Center Grove, including a Class 5A state title in 2008 and in 6A this past fall.
The nervous baby-faced kid who gave the speech at Center Grove finished his glorious 18-year NFL career with 71,940 passing yards and 539 touchdowns.
Even though the Colts’ franchise played 13 seasons in Indianapolis prior to Manning’s arrival, it was the quarterback’s blend of talent, smarts, humility and likability that played a major role of growing Indiana high school football.
And, oh, yes, he won.
“He made football important here and such a big show. Colts games became such a production, and people in Indiana hadn’t seen that before,” Moore said. “Him being successful led to building Lucas Oil Stadium, which has hosted so many great events.”
Everyone wanted to be No. 18, but there was only one.
Caleb Linneman, Franklin
Not yet born when the Colts moved from Baltimore to Indianapolis in 1984, Caleb Linneman nonetheless appreciates the impact the 1998 draft selection of Manning had on central Indiana as a whole.
Slowly, the place that for generations had been so passionate about basketball, in time became a football state, too.
“Probably him coming to Indianapolis and obviously us growing because of him being popular and famous and performing well on the football field,” said Linneman, 20.
“He created the name. He made the team what it was, and people looked up to him. He was the leader here, then kind of fell away and everybody got mad. Peyton Manning changed the city of Indianapolis.”
Jamie Rainey, Franklin
Franklin resident Jamie Rainey doesn’t know Manning, but knows enough about the former Indianapolis Colts quarterback to form a positive opinion.
“Peyton’s career was very sensational. Just what he contributed to the Indianapolis Colts and also the NFL,” Rainey said. “I’m sorry to see No. 18 leave, but like he said, ‘Eighteen is a good number.’ ”
Musa Akermawi, Franklin
It’s common knowledge Manning will eventually be a first-ballot Pro Football Hall of Fame inductee.
What impresses Musa Akermawi the most is that the quarterback since first setting foot on Indiana soil has been nothing but a Hall of Fame man.
“What I’ll remember most about Peyton Manning is how genuine he is as a human being. An amazing football player, of course, but what he did for Indianapolis is what stood out for me,” Akermawi said.
“Even after he left for Denver he was able to sustain the Children’s Hospital, which I thought was amazing. It shows how genuine of a person he is. Peyton’s been a good role model for our kids with his work ethic and overall attitude. He did it correct, and that’s why I love Peyton.”
Laurie Conover, Greenwood
More than any passing record or Super Bowl victory Manning helped contribute to, it’s what the quarterback has accomplished off the field that most matters to Laurie Conover.
“His humanitarian efforts where he opened the hospital for kids. He’s not only a football hero, he’s a hero in real life,” Conover said. “That’s something that’s going to carry on long after (football.) A good person.”