Peyton Manning may be the greatest quarterback in NFL history. Yes, Tom Brady has more rings and had more team success. However, he’s enjoyed playing under the greatest head coach in history with a long list of top defenses helping him out along the way. Manning didn’t always enjoy that in his career. Yet he set every meaningful passing record, went to four Super Bowls with four different head coaches, and won two Lombardi trophies.
A big reason he was able to have so much success was his unbelievable study habits. The guy was a film junky. Not only did he study himself and opponents obsessively, but he also looked to NFL history for anything that might help him get better. This was something he picked up from his father, Archie Manning. As it turns out, that work ethic may have had one other source.
According to Dan Pompei of The Athletic, Archie became good friends with star Chicago Bears running back Walter Payton. “Sweetness” was thrilled when the news hit that the Manning patriarch and his wife were pregnant with their newest child. Especially when he heard what his name would be.
When Olivia Manning was pregnant with Peyton, she and her husband Archie — an NFL quarterback from 1971 through 1984 — decided they would name their baby Peyton after Archie’s Uncle Peyton. As it turned out, Peyton was born on Uncle Peyton’s 75th birthday.
At the time, Archie had worked out occasionally with Walter Payton in Jackson, Mississippi, where Payton still was living early in his NFL career. Upon hearing of Peyton’s birth, Payton called Archie.
Walter: “Thanks for naming your son after me, that was so nice of you.”
Archie: “Well, Walter, I love you. But I actually named my son after my uncle. It’s spelled differently.”
Walter: “I know you named him after me. I know.”
Payton, who had a way of busting chops while giving the impression he was serious, never let it go. Every time he saw Archie, he asked about his “namesake.”
Peyton Manning should’ve gone along with it
While Archie was good-natured about the joke, his son should’ve gone along with Uncle Walter’s ruse. Try to imagine the reaction of the media if he told them his first name was taken from the greatest running back in NFL history. An already iconic career would’ve become that much more legendary. However, true to his humble nature he never went with it.
That doesn’t mean the story is any less funny. Payton was probably one of the greatest pranksters in the history of any sport. Some of the shenanigans he pulled on Mike Ditka during the 1980s are timeless. It’s nice to know he had an outlying impact on the future of another all-time great. If only Manning had been able to play in Chicago instead. That would’ve been truly something special.