Manning, Hunter honored

Updated: June 20, 2010, 9:16 PM ET
Associated Press

INDIANAPOLIS -- Peyton Manning always dreamed of being as good a football player as his dad.

Archie Manning might be more even impressed with how his son has embraced the importance of giving back to his community.

On Sunday, the NFL's four-time MVP winner was honored for his charitable work by earning the Youthlinks Indiana National Pathfinder Award, becoming the first second generation member to win the award.

"It's neat," Peyton Manning said. "You know this morning we were all together down in Jackson, Miss., for something Eli was doing and it's not often we all get to be together like that. But it's really an honor to be here to get this award."

The award is given to individuals who have demonstrated a commitment to helping children, and few have been more active in that pursuit than football's first family.

Manning's parents shared the Pathfinder Award in 2006 but did not attend Sunday's banquet.

The perennial Pro Bowler, however, flew back to Indianapolis, where he serves as the face of the Colts' franchise and has one of the city's most prominent charitable organizations, the PeyBack Foundation to show everyone that what it really means to be like father, like son.

Last year, Manning's annual celebrity bowling tournament raised $335,000 for at-risk children, and he annually hosts local high school football games at Lucas Oil Stadium to open the prep season. Manning also has donated Christmas gifts to underprivileged children in Indiana, Tennessee and Louisiana for more than a decade.

But three years ago, Manning's contributions took on a whole new dimension when a local children's hospital changed its name to Peyton Manning Children's Hospital at St.Vincent's. Manning and his wife, Ashley, run the foundation

"You know no one wants to go to the hospital and go to the doctor, but if we can give them some sense of being comfortable there, helping them, that's what we want to do," Manning said. "You don't know how much it means every time we get a letter from a parent about their visit."

Manning wasn't Sunday's only honoree.

IUPUI coach Ron Hunter received the Indiana Pathfinder Award for providing donated shoes to children in foreign countries, and local jump rope coach Niki Glover won the Rev. Charles Williams Award, presented by the Indiana Black Expo.

Hunter collected more than 3 million pairs of shoes over the last year with Samaritan's Feet, and he will personally distribute those shoes to children in Haiti and South Africa this summer. What started as a part-time mission for Hunter has become a full-time job.

"It's changed my life, it's changed how I coach," said Hunter, who came to the ceremony in dress shoes rather than the bare feet in which he coached to draw attention to the cause. "I used to think coaching was who I am, but it's what I do, not who I am. Winning and losing is still important to me, but I used to think about the next job and now I'm OK with it if this is my last job because this [shoe drive] means so much to me."

Manning is the first active NFL player to win a Pathfinder Award and only the second NFL player to ever. The other: His father, Archie.

Manning also joins another long list of household sports celebrities.

Past national winners include NBA greats Larry Bird, Bill Russell and Oscar Robertson; coaching giants Tony Dungy, Tom Landry, Ara Parseghian, Eddie Robinson, Dean Smith and John Wooden; golfers Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer and Byron Nelson; Olympic gold medalists Jackie Joyner-Kersee and Carl Lewis and golf course designer Pete Dye.

Last year's winners were Nicklaus and his wife Barbara, and former NCAA president Myles Brand. Organizers had a moment of silence for three previous winners who died in the last year -- Brand, Wooden and Eunice Kennedy Shriver, who won the award in 1993 along with her husband Sargent Shriver.

The significance of this award and being linked to those names was not lost on Manning, who has won a record four NFL MVP Awards, one Super Bowl MVP Award and the league's 2004 Offensive Player of the Year Award.

"I'm very humbled to be added to that list," Manning said. "But it's special because my family has had an association with this banquet for a long time, even before I got to the Colts. My parents won it a few years ago, so to win it for giving back to a community means so much."


Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press