Peyton Manning was the epicenter as more than 500 students filed into a gymnasium Tuesday afternoon at South Grove Intermediate School in Beech Grove.
Star of the show: South Grove Intermediate School students show their excitement as Colts quarterback Peyton Manning sits down in front of them, especially fourth-grader Cris Martinez (behind Manning) who got to shake his hand. Said Martinez: "It was a really firm grip." - Charlie Nye / The Star
Peyton Manning visits South Grove Intermediate School May 11, 2010 The Beech Grove school was the 2010 Project 18 Statewide Health and Wellness Challenge winner. View
They had attentive eyes and inquisitive minds, and used the latter to pepper the Indianapolis Colts quarterback with a variety of personal questions after he recognized the school for winning the statewide Project 18 Challenge.
"Y'all did a wonderful job of delivering the best effort in the whole state of Indiana," said Manning, who became the NFL's first four-time MVP in 2009.
Manning didn't make himself available to the media after the event. That left it to the fourth-, fifth- and sixth-graders to grill the 10-time Pro Bowl selection. Their wide-ranging questions included:
If not the Colts, which team would you like to play for? "I really hadn't thought about that. If I couldn't play for the Colts, I would probably stop playing football."
What is your favorite activity away from football? "When we're not doing football stuff, me and my teammates will play golf. Me and Dallas Clark, Jeff Saturday and Anthony Gonzalez. Me and Jeff Saturday are always partners. If we're getting beat at golf, at least Jeff could beat 'em up in a wrestling match."
Who was your favorite player and role model growing up? "My dad's (Archie) always been my favorite football player and my role model. He was the guy I always tried to be like. I always felt real lucky to have my favorite football player and my role model in the same person."
Do you ever take a favorite pillow with you when you travel? "I don't really take a special pillow, but some guys actually do have certain sleeping habits that they feel like, in order to sleep in the hotel the night before the game, they want to feel like they're sleeping at home. They'll have a special pillow that helps their neck feel better. When we go to training camp, a lot of players have that special blanket. Dallas Clark, my roommate, has a teddy bear he brings. It makes him feel comfortable."
Project 18 focuses on nutrition, physical activity and holistic health in elementary schools and is a collaborative effort of Manning, the Peyton Manning Children's Hospital, Marsh Supermarkets, Ball State University and Strategic Marketing & Research Inc. South Grove was presented with $2,500 to put toward its health and wellness programs.