The director of a suburban Denver shelter has confirmed that former Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning was rescued just minutes before he was scheduled to be euthanized.
Instead, the 39-year-old NFL all-time leader for passing yards will now spend the remainder of his life in Greener Fields, a home for aging or injured NFL players deemed by their trainers to be of no further use.
The center, located on five acres in Englewood, is run by a small team of caring staff and volunteers and is credited with having saved at least 120 NFL players from being put to sleep.
Greener Fields director Linda Bonhomme says that on Wednesday morning she received a call from a frantic Broncos assistant who said that Manning had been loaded into the back of a van and was on his way to a clinic known for euthanizing former team members.
“I jumped in my car and sped off, and fortunately I got to the clinic just as the van was pulling up,” Bonhomme said. “Peyton was pale and terribly frightened as you can imagine, and with him were two trainers, the Broncos offensive coordinator [Rick Dennison] and another guy who might have a been a passing coach.”
“After a lot of heated back and forth, I managed to convince them that Peyton deserved a better life, and that they should release him to me,” she said. “When they left, I petted Peyton’s head, gave him a granola bar that I had in my purse, and then I drove him to his new home.”
After a short quarantine during which staff checked Manning for diseases and gave him a physical exam, he was released into the shelter’s general population where he was reportedly greeted with an enthusiastic invitation to play catch from longtime Greener Fields resident and former Dallas Cowboys running back Emmitt Smith.
“I know that Peyton is going to be so happy here, eating good food, getting top-notch medical care, and spending his afternoons outside with me and the other rescued players,” Smith said. “People think that once NFL players retire that we’re of no use to society, but that’s simply not true.”
“We can still run around and chase balls,” he added.
Based an examination of Manning’s teeth, a doctor estimates that the five-time MVP has at least 40 years left in him, and that because he’s in decent physical condition, he’ll be able to take full advantage of the shelter’s facilities.
“We have an actual football field, with goal posts and everything,” Bonhomme said. “And last year, we got a grant to build a reproduction media room with a real podium and a functioning microphone. Our residents love playing there, holding pretend press conferences and answering questions in imaginary post-game interviews.”
One advocacy group estimates that up to 400 former NFL players are euthanized each year. Greener Fields is just one of a dozen such homes across the country that have opened in the past ten years. Awareness for the plight of abandoned players grew rapidly in the mid-2000s after an emaciated and scabby Joe Montana, the legendary 49ers quarterback, was discovered chained to a post outside a farm in rural California.