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Published:February 7th, 2007 05:27 EST
No More Doubts

No More Doubts

By Lonny Stewart

In the wet, rainy, waterlogged night in Miami, Florida, Peyton Manning proved once and for all that he is one of the finest quarterbacks in the history of football.

Dogged for years because of his supposed inability to win close, big games, Peyton Manning showed what Colts' coach Tony Dungy had been preaching all along: football is a team game. Every player has to play their position right, and every player has to make the sacrifice necessary for the team to win.

Manning was perhaps unfairly criticized for years when it came to evaluating the losses the Colts' suffered in playoffs of years past. It was always his blunders that made media attention. Nobody ever showed the mistakes that their young and fragile defense often committed, and nobody in the media really placed the blame on Mike Vanderjagt last year when he missed a potentially game-tying field goal at the end of regulation. It was always Peyton's fault. He was always the scapegoat.

But Peyton never wavered. He never doubted his team's ability to win the big game. It was about being patient, and getting better. Head coach Tony Dungy, a Jackson native, instilled his great spiritual faith into not only Peyton, but the entire Colts organization, starting from the owner to the towel boy. They used that faith when times were the hardest, like last year, when the Colts showed incredible promise by starting the season 13-0, only to lose in the divisional round by the eventual Super Bowl champs. That faith was reciprocated to Coach Dungy, when in 2005, a few days before Christmas, his 18 year old son took his life.

Last night in Miami, their faith was rewarded. Peyton's confidence in his ability was rewarded, too. On top of winning his first Vince Lombardi trophy, he also won the individual honor of Most Valuable Player. Humble as always, Peyton accepted the award but did exactly what nobody really expected him to: he thanked his team. He complimented his team. He said that he was proud to be a part of the team, and for purist sports fans, he hit a nerve. So when he finally hoisted that beautiful, radiant trophy into the soggy Miami night, water dripping from it's glistening silver surface, every football fan in America felt a great sense of happiness and satisfaction for the man who puts his team first, plays so selflessly, and is a model for any athletic competition.

For many, fans and media alike, they felt that Peyton's Super Bowl championship was the vindication of what already is a Hall of Fame career. Coach Dungy commented that anyone who thought that Peyton needed vindication in the form of a championship "needed his head checked."

While that may or may not be true, it is a certainty that the championship provides a coronation of sorts and an immense satisfaction for a player and team who work so hard just to live for the moment they experienced last night. Peyton's statistical achievements, including two MVP awards and seven straight 4000 passing yard seasons were all but indisputable proofs that he was worthy of enshrinement in Canton. With a ring under his belt, and another 6-8 years of playing time left, Peyton can now go for the all-time records. And before it's all said and done, it's possible he'll hold them all. He's already spoken of as somewhat of a legend, but now that there are no more doubts of his ability, he is free to transcend legendary and become whatever he wants to be, which very well may be the greatest quarterback to ever play the game.