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October 21, 2013

HOWEY: Heroes and leaders through the Peyton prism

(Continued)

The kids on the sandlots still imagine that bottom-of-the-ninth homer by Ron Kittle. Larry Bird epitomes the small town kid who found the Big 10 too big, then captured the heart of an entire nation . . .for decades. You can still go to Broad Ripple and have a beer with Bobby Plump.

We love the pugnacity of Tony Stewart, who not only toils at the legendary speedways at Daytona and Indy, but on the dirt tracks from Ohio to Iowa mid-week.

Those of us who were born and raised in the Region and across Northern Indiana know that NFL highlight reels of Dick Butkus, Gale Sayers, Walter Payton and Mike Ditka define the essence of toughness, speed, flexibility and true grit.

And then there's Peyton Manning. 

I walk out of my backdoor in Indianapolis and a block away stands Lucas Oil Stadium. Babe Ruth built Yankee Stadium, and Manning built the home of the Colts. Without him, Jimmy Irsay might well be tweeting from Los Angeles. Manning transformed Indiana from a basketball state, to one of a formidable gridiron stature that transcends all levels.  Just a few weeks ago, the Brown County Eagles played on a Friday night at Lucas Oil.

In Manning, we find a man who is focused, prepared and intellectually superior. And we love how he bends the minds of those who oppose him. We name hospitals in his honor. Some day his statue will stand outside this stadium.

With luck (pun intended), perhaps this generation of Hoosier leaders will borrow these attributes from those who inspire us on these fields of dreams .

 

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