With the specter of retirement hovering around Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning, Russell Wilson penned a poem of appreciation for the surefire Hall of Famer following the Broncos' Super Bowl 50 win.
The Seattle Seahawks star took to The Players' Tribune to issue his thanks Monday:
If this is it, there’s one moment I won’t forget.
10th grade. Louisiana. At your quarterback camp.
You inspired the kid in the green shirt.
You inspired me to work hard. To be disciplined. To be respectful. To take notes.
You inspired me to love the process. To love the sweat. To love the tears.
But most of all …
You inspired me to love the game.
If this is it,
Wilson was one of a few high school standouts to attend the Manning Passing Academy.
"There were thousands of kids there, and I was actually in [Manning's] group—me and 12 or 15 other guys," he said ahead of his Super Bowl matchup with Manning and the Broncos in 2014, per Seahawks.com. "Just how much care for the kids, and how much detail he always talked about and what a perfectionist he was. I try to use that in my game."
Manning was asked on multiple occasions immediately following Super Bowl 50 whether he was going to retire, and he deflected the question each time, per NFL.com's Chris Wesseling. At the very least, he couldn't pick a better time to walk away, winning a title in what could be his final NFL game.
There seemed to be a level of finality to the occasion, with Carolina Panthers cornerback Josh Norman seeking Manning out in order to offer his admiration toward the end of the game. The NFL shared a replay of the special moment:
Really cool moment as Josh Norman seeks out Peyton Manning to congratulate him 💯#FootballIsFamily #SB50 https://t.co/WrBQK3YanM2016-2-8 04:02:34
Manning has left a major impression on a generation of football players and fans alike. For nearly two decades, he has been the epitome of what an NFL quarterback should be.
As Wilson can attest, Manning's work off the field has also motivated plenty of future quarterbacks as well.