Students were able to ask Colts quarterback Peyton Manning questions about his sports career, balancing academics sports and who his biggest role model is when Manning paid a surprise visit to Zionsville Middle School Tuesday afternoon.

Photo by Eric Smith/For The Reporter
Lebanon Reporter

United States President Barack Obama and the Pope were just some of the many “celebrities” Zionsville Middle School students thought might be their surprise visitor on Tuesday afternoon.

They weren’t even close.

ZMS fifth-grader Jordan Mead welcomed Peyton Manning, the Indianapolis Colts star quarterback to the school, and every student jumped off their seats and screamed with excitement the second he walked through the gymnasium doors.

“I had no idea who it was going to be. The teacher’s didn’t even know,” said sixth-grader Sam Sherer.

Sixth-grader Joshua Becker added “I thought it was cool that he came to our school out of all the other schools. It made me feel special. I thought it was going to be Tony Dungy, but I think this was way better. Shout out to Peyton Manning.”

Jordan, 11, was the recipient of the Peyton Manning Children’s Hospital at St. Vincent’s raffle prize. The purchase of a $50 raffle ticket was required to be entered in the drawing for the Super Bowl MVP to visit an area elementary, middle or high school student. Jordan’s parents were announced as the winners for the school visit at the Children’s Hospital Celebration of Caring Fundraising Gala on May 8 at Lucas Oil Stadium.

“It was very exciting,” Jordan said. “Peyton Manning is my favorite football player. I always thought I would meet him and now that I did, I am just really happy.”

Jordan’s father, Ron, entered the raffle thinking that there was no way his ticket would be chosen.

“I wrote my wife’s name on the ticket, and when her name was called she was very surprised and had to go in front of many people,” Ron said. “I thought it was great that he came to the school, and I thought he had a great message for the kids today.”

Manning spoke to the children about two different topics. The first was priorities.

“Faith, family and an education come before extra curricular activities,” Manning said. “Football was never my number one priority. I had to do all my homework and get good grades if I wanted to be involved in sports.”

The other topic of discussion was temptations.

“You kids have a lot more temptations than I did as a kid,” he said. “Always listen to your teachers and parents and surround yourself with the right kind of people and do the right thing.”

He also told the students that it’s not too early to have dreams and set goals, because he decided what he wanted to do in life around the same age as the students.

After his short speech, the students were able to ask him questions. One question was how students can balance academics and athletics.

“I dreamed about playing football, but I knew school came first,” he said. “It was hard to balance academics and sports, but I knew that school was more important.”

Another student asked who his biggest role model was and, without even a moment’s hesitation, he answered “my father” with a big smile.

“He was a hero, my father and a football player,” Manning said. “My family has always supported me.”

A student asked Manning why he has been involved in local philanthropy.

“My parents taught me that it is important to give back,” he said. “It goes back to doing the right thing. Helping and giving back made me the person I am today. The children’s hospital helps a lot of kids get healthy. The staff at the hospital does an amazing job and makes the patients feel as comfortable as possible, and I am proud to be a small part of that.”

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