During the course of his 18-year career, Peyton Manning made a practice of sending handwritten letters to former teammates, opponents, coaches and fans.
It’s not surprising, considering his status as the NFL’s elder statesman – and his carefully crafted image as pro-football’s goofy dad – but now that he’s retired, the odds of becoming pen pals with an All-Pro QB just dropped to zero. So it’s fitting that some of his notes are finally seeing the light of day in a new Gatorade commercial designed to pay tribute to Peyton’s legacy (both on and off the field) by using his own words.
In the spot, Manning’s former Colts and Broncos teammates – like Demaryius Thomas, Brandon Stokley and Jeff Saturday – and coaches read the letters they received from him over the years, as do his fellow famous athletes (like Derek Jeter) and family members like brother Eli and father Archie. But the most emotional moments come from those who have suffered through hardship, like ESPN analyst Chris Mortensen, currently battling throat cancer, and Pam Frenzel, whose son Tyler befriended Manning after being diagnosed with leukemia when he was seven years old.
Tyler Frenzel died in 2004, and Manning sent his family a letter of support. Like each one he wrote, he signed it “Sincerely, Peyton.”
Manning announced his retirement on March 7, a month after the Denver Broncos beat the Carolina Panthers in Super Bowl 50, giving him his second championship. Since then, he’s kept a low profile – unless there’s karaoke to be sung.