This honor may trump a fifth NFL MVP award. Sports Illustrated announced Sunday that Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning is its Sportsman of the Year for 2013.
Manning, 37, is in the midst of an unprecedented comeback from four neck surgeries that forced him to miss the entire 2011 season with the Indianapolis Colts, an injury that led to his release, free agency, and a new chapter in his career with the Denver Broncos.
Manning was named NFL Comeback Player of the Year in 2012 and has 47 touchdown passes this season — three off the league's single-season record with two games remaining. He has led the Broncos to an 11-3 record and is a top candidate to win his record fifth MVP award this season.
“At first, when I knew we were considering Manning, I thought: good choice. Lifetime-achievement-award choice,” said SI Senior Writer and NFL guru Peter King. “But if you isolate this year, you're looking at a player two years removed from four neck procedures that would have prompted many 35-year-old legends to choose retirement. He has his Super Bowl. He has his MVPs. Now he's on the verge of breaking the most important single-season quarterback records (touchdown passes and passing yards) in the 94-year history of the game. He threw seven touchdown passes against the defending Super Bowl champs. And he's got his team set to win the top seed in the AFC. Who plays his best—wounded, with so many great young guns chasing him—at 37?”
Annually, the magazine presents the Sportsman of the Year award to the athlete, coach or team that demonstrates superior athletic achievement. The award debuted in 1954 with Roger Bannister, who broke the 4-minute mile barrier. Manning is the eighth member of the NFL to receive the award, following commissioner Pete Rozelle (1963), Terry Bradshaw (1979), Reggie Williams, (Athletes Who Care, 1987), Joe Montana (1990), Tom Brady (2005), Brett Favre (2007), and Drew Brees (2010).
The Sportsman of the Year has previously gone to the likes of Tiger Woods, Michael Jordan, Muhammad Ali, Michael Phelps, the 1999 U.S. women's soccer team and 1980 U.S. Olympic men's hockey team to name a few.
“I don't like the idea of narrowly defining a Sportsman based on what he's done in the last 12 months,” Chris Stone, managing editor of Sports Illustrated said during a press conference Monday at the Broncos' Dove Valley headquarters. “I think you can take somebody's collective body of work and everything that they've established throughout their careers. ... I think the collective body of work is what we're rewarding here.”
Manning will receive the honor at a dinner in Denver on Monday night.
The magazine is on sale now.