Here is your latest installment of Peyton Manning Is a Really Nice Guy. In this one, an Indiana native with an advanced form of cancer decided to make the Broncos quarterback one of the people to whom she sent letters, letting them know how much they meant to her.
“I have followed Peyton Manning forever, especially being an Indiana girl,” Kari Bollig, a 45-year-old who now lives in Wyoming, told the Indianapolis Star. “I just thought, ‘Well shoot. I’m going to write him a letter and tell him how much he inspires me, not just because he’s a football player, but for what he does off the field.
“It was very personal. It was very heartfelt and I never thought anything of it other than I wrote it and sent it,” she added. “I didn’t even know he would get it.”
Manning got it. And what he offered in return lifted Bollig’s spirits as much as anything could for her.
The quarterback, still revered in Indiana from his record-setting days with the Colts, gave the woman and her husband sideline passes for last week’s Ravens-Broncos game, but he also arranged for more. Bollig, whose stage 4 breast cancer has spread to her bones, got to visit the team’s facilities in Denver, taking a tour and watching a Broncos practice.
Oh, and Manning sought her out for a conversation, and for several delightful minutes, Bollig’s thoughts were very, very far from her illness.
“He walked right over after he got his picture taken,” she told the Star. “It was so sweet because he shakes my hand and says, ‘I’m Peyton Manning.’ It was cute. It was kind of like, ‘I know who you are Peyton.’ ”
“It was real easy and laid back, not at all nerve-wracking,” she said. “He’s welcoming. He’s like a gentle giant. It was such a personal moment. It was a once in a lifetime thing.”
The grateful fan told her story to a writer at the Star, Dana Hunsinger Benbow, whose older sister was best friends with Bollig when they were growing up in Indiana. Benbow, who constructed her piece as her own letter to Manning, had this to say to the quarterback:
“I didn’t love you before, Peyton. Even when you were in Indianapolis, even when you won a Super Bowl for the Colts during the 2006 season. I didn’t love you even when you made me cry with laughter in ‘Saturday Night Live’ or those goofy ESPN commercials.
“I never felt a particular genuineness about you. I felt more of a robotic aloofness. I’m not sure why. I know now that was my problem, not yours.
“But I want to tell you something. I do love you now. I love you for what you did for my childhood friend from Greenfield, Ind., who is dying of breast cancer.”