Peyton Manning on IT

Peyton Manning’s Keynote at ChannelCon 2016 is an Industry Touchdown

Two-time Super Bowl champion quarterback Peyton Manning spoke at CompTIA ChannelCon at the Diplomat Resort & Spa Hollywood today, August 2, 2016, stressing teamwork and adaptability in a speech that frequently drew comparisons between football and business.

Manning began his remarks with a joke. “Someone asked me backstage if at all today I was going to talk about Papa John’s pizza,” addressing his commercials for the pizza franchise and admitting he’s a partner in the company as he owns 30 Papa John’s locations in Colorado. “Let me tell you; due to some recent law changes out there in Colorado, the pizza business is pretty good right now,” he said. Manning added, “A lot of late night orders; trying to figure that out,” slyly bringing up the 2012 legalization of marijuana in the state of Colorado. It would be the first of many quips from the quarterback peppered throughout his speech; all of which landed with ease assisted by his relaxed southern accent.

Manning advised the crowd to reflect on the past before moving forward; adding that he’s at such a point in his career. “I’m playing with the GPS in my car and it’s a DeLorean,” he said. “Movies like Back to the Future help us imagine what time travel would look like. But the reality is time travel won’t exist in our lifetime.” Toward that end, he cautioned against getting stuck in the past while looking back on it. “If trophies are what drives you, you’re going to run off the road.”

From there, Manning moved to the subject of teamwork. To illustrate this, he shared a story of how he learned the hard way that teamwork rules over an individual’s need to lead. He acknowledged that he is known for calling audibles before a play but added, “Let me assure you I didn’t start out that way.” Manning then relayed an anecdote about his first time in a huddle on the football team in school after the starting quarterback had torn his knee. His father had previously told him that if he ever found himself in this position, to immediately assert leadership. He tried to do this and, “A tackle told me, ‘Hey kid, shut the blank up and call the play.’” Manning compared this to struggling to get started in companies where the hierarchy may be clogged with legacy employees.

Manning asked the audience, “What has helped you in navigating your industry during some of the biggest technology shifts in our history?” The answer, he said, is being nimble. He then joked that he himself is not all that nimble, due to injuries suffered on the field. “Those of you who have seen me play know I don’t pivot all that easily,” he said, adding that he’s overcome this by his need to compete. “When you’re competitive, it drives you.

Manning shared another story; being drafted in 1998 by the Indianapolis Colts, at that time the worse team in the league, who proceeded to have a horrible season. “I set the record for interceptions that year, a record I hold to this day,” he joked, a fun contrast to the video that played before his introduction highlighting the many positive records Manning holds. To improve here, Manning had to realize that the window for a successful pass in the NFL is about an inch wide, again comparing this to how you have to adapt and change to succeed in any type of career. He said he came to focus on “anything that was different; that was valuable; and that could move me toward my goal.” Toward that end, he shared that he’d just learned what the Internet of Things means.

The quarterback closed his remarks by describing the stunning turnaround he pulled off after his 2011 season, which saw him sidelined by injuries and ultimately leaving the Indianapolis Colts. “After four surgeries, coming back to play as starting quarterback seemed ludicrous,” he said. “But when I was injured, I never said, ‘I think I’m out for the season.’ I never said, even to my wife, ‘I think I’ll never play again.’” Instead, Manning took steps toward his recover week-by-week and kept up with his team, watching every game on TV. “Not being involved was excruciating. But [his dedication] set a standard of expectation for everyone. My teammates had my back.”

He then moved to the Denver Broncos, winning the Super Bowl with them during the team’s 2015 season. He said this season, his last, was like playing with an all new team, comparing this to businesses constantly acclimating to new conditions. Manning and the Broncos clearly adapted here. “It is one of the most captivating moments to know that we won a world championship together,” he said. But he did add, “Now, I can never escape the sting of the two that got away.”

He finished with this advice: “In closing, winning is about people, and you should cultivate that attitude in people who work with you and for you.”

CompTIA CEO Todd Thibodeau then came out for a sit-down Q&A with Manning. Asked who hit him the hardest, Manning immediately answered Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis, adding that after a tackle, Lewis would whisper in Manning’s ear, “I’ll be back in a couple of minutes.” He joked that he’s bought Lewis gifts such as dinner and golf clubs “to try to soften the blow. Never seems to remember.”

Asked about competition amongst his brothers Cooper and Eli Manning, he admitted, “Playing against Eli is difficult for both of us,” but also joked, “Cooper beat on me pretty good and I thought I’d pass that down to Eli.”

Asked what tech items are indispensable for him, Manning took it way back to when he watched film of competing teams on Betamax tapes. By the time he retired, he was watching such videos on an iPad. “I stayed close to that iPad.”

Asked if he’d ever want to return to football as head coach, Manning answered, “I don’t think so. I think there’s a real art to coaching,” adding that as a player he saw himself as more of a teacher. “As a player, you really have the final say. As a coach, at a certain point, you have to relinquish control.”

Asked what it was like to host Saturday Night Live, Manning said he found it an easy transition, as he plays football live on television and the preparation for a game unfolds over the course of a week, like on the show. But he did point to one sketch as difficult for him; one in which he coaches a team of children for the United Way. This involved him throwing a Nerf football at kids, which wouldn’t hurt, but it’d appear that way. He almost backed out until one of the child actor’s parents ran out and said, “I want him to hit my kid in the face.”

Before he left the stage, Manning was presented with a giant check for $10,000 for the PeyBack Foundation.

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