Blue or Orange?
That was the question many fans grappled with as former Indianapolis Colts quarterback Peyton Manning returned to Lucas Oil Stadium — “the house that he built” — Sunday night for the Colts-Broncos football game.
Thousands of Hoosiers — including many football fans from the Wabash Valley — flooded the stadium in Indianapolis to watch Manning, now the Denver quarterback, play against his Colts replacement, Andrew Luck.
The sea of blue showed that the audience was primarily Colts supporters, but some were found wearing orange Broncos jerseys, which stuck out of the crowd.
But others, like Terre Haute resident Jonathan Wright, wore a half-Colts, half-Broncos jersey.
“In honor of Peyton,” the Colts fan said Sunday.
Wright and his group of seven friends arrived at the stadium in an RV ahead of the game to tailgate. Other groups from Terre Haute — including one group of about 30 people — also joined in the pre-game festivities.
While wearing the half-and-half jersey is a way for Wright to show “a little respect for Peyton,” he did not lose sight of “who we’re cheering for,” he said.
“I’m a Colts fan,” Wright said. “He’s [Manning] one of the best quarterbacks ever, but I’m not going to lose sight of the team I support 100 percent.”
Manning, the NFL’s only four-time MVP, joined the Broncos in 2012 after being released by the Colts, who drafted Luck, the team’s current quarterback. The previous season, Manning suffered from a neck injury that caused him to miss the entire 2011 campaign with the Colts.
Manning joined the Colts in 1998 and led the team to a Super Bowl championship.
Because of Manning’s return to Lucas Oil, there was a lot more hype surrounding Sunday night’s game compared to an average home game, said Wright, a season-ticket holder.
“It’s very exciting to see it and just be able to experience it,” he said. “I can’t wait for the game.”
Another Terre Haute fan, Allen Keegan — who went to the game with his friend and fellow firefighter, Ray Mulvihill — could hardly contain his excitement, being at the game.
“I’ve been a Colts fan ever since I was a kid,” Keegan said, who added that his dad and brother may be “upset” because “I’m going to be able to watch Peyton Manning return [live], and they have to sit at home.”
He just couldn’t believe that he was able to go to the much-anticipated game.
“For me to be able to be here to watch him [Manning] play against the team he’s been playing for since he got in the NFL is pretty cool,” he said.
But there is no doubt which team to cheer for.
“I’m going to have to stick with my Colts team,” he said.
Mulvihill and Keegan tailgated with other firefighters from the Terre Haute area present at the pre-game festivities.
“It’s kind of a last-minute deal. I didn’t know they were up here,” Mulvihill said.
But to be able to “hang out with people that I know” made the experience much better, Mulvihill added.
Mulvihill, a Manning fan and a loyal Colts fan, said that part of the excitement was watching the game unfold “with your own eyes,” instead of watching it on TV.
“He’s [Manning] always been one of my favorite players. It’s weird seeing him not in Colts blue,” he said.
Mulvihill said the tickets were expensive. He paid $147 for seats in the 600 section, the highest in the stadium.
“Just seeing the tribute for Peyton and just the magnitude of the game will be worth it,” he said.
Although he likes Manning and considers him one of the best players around, “he’s still an opponent,” and Mulvihill wanted the Colts to win, he said.
Mulvihill also thinks highly of Luck.
“It’s a good thing we drafted him. He’s been awesome. He knows how to play the game. It was a good pick up for the Colts,” he said.
Another Terre Haute Colts fan, Troy Jackson, visibly supported Luck.
Jackson, who wore Luck’s No. 12 jersey to the game, said he likes Manning but is rooting for the Colts.
“I wish him the best. I like Peyton. He’s always a great player [and] a great man. It’s hard not to be a fan of someone like him,” he said.
“It’s going to be a tough dynamic. I’m a true Colts fan, and yet I still want to see Peyton succeed,” said Jackson, who has been a Colts fan for more than 15 years.
“But I’m a true Colts fan first,” he confirmed.
He was looking forward to the football experience with his wife, Lana, who was also at the game.
“We just want to take in as much as we can,” Jackson said.
He called the atmosphere “festive” and the weather “football weather.”
And a good opportunity for the fans to thank Manning.
“The way he left … the fans really didn’t get to give him a farewell,” Jackson said.
It was a unique experience.
“I’m so excited. You’ll never be able to experience something like this [again],” Jackson said before the game. “It’s once in a lifetime.”
Tribune-Star Reporter Dianne Frances D. Powell can be reached at 812-231-4299 or email@example.com.
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