Run your finger down a high school football roster in Central Indiana this season. There’s an increasingly good chance you’ll find a “Peyton” on the roster.
It makes sense, right? Peyton Manning was drafted No. 1 by the Colts in the 1998 draft, right around the time this generation of high school players was born.
A study of rosters shows there are at least 15 “Peytons” on area teams this season. Consider it another lasting, living legacy of former Colts’ general manager Bill Polian choosing Manning over Ryan Leaf.
“It was a unique name at the time our son was born,” said Jeremy Young, whose son, Peyton, is a freshman at Western Boone and was born on July 18, 2000. “It’s authentic. We love Peyton Manning. We weren’t 100 percent sure about naming our son Peyton, but when he was born on the 18th (Manning’s jersey number), then we were certain.”
The popularity of the name coincided with Manning’s rise as college star at Tennessee and later with the Colts. According to statistics tracked at socialsecurity.gov, the boy’s name “Peyton” ranked as the No. 664th most popular name in the United States when Manning was named the national player of the year in 1993 as a high school senior in New Orleans.
In early 2007, Manning led the Colts to a Super Bowl victory over the Chicago Bears. That year, there were 3,371 boys born named Peyton to rank as the 125th most popular name nationally.
In Indiana, not surprisingly, the numbers are even more pronounced. “Peyton” first registered on the state’s top 100 list for boys names in 2000, Manning’s third season with the Colts, at No. 78. It rose as high as No. 65 in 2006.
Avon junior Peyton Allen, born in February 1999, was ahead of the curve. His parents were fans of Manning at Tennessee and were considering either Peyton or Ted, the latter his father’s name.
“The morning I went into labor we were at Meijer and my husband picked out a pack of football cards,” Kelly Allen said. “The very top card was a Peyton Manning rookie card. That decided it for us.”
Peyton Allen is a big Manning fan. When he was in elementary school, he read a story that Manning didn’t play organized football until the seventh grade. To the surprise of his parents, Allen followed the same path. He tried out for quarterback as a seventh grader, but eventually settled into his current position as a wide receiver.
“I enjoy having that name, to be honest,” Peyton Allen said. “Growing up, I was always a big fan of him. I never really thought too much about being named after him, but it’s pretty cool. I like it a lot.”
Steve Guidry wore an orange No. 16 Peyton Manning Tennessee jersey in the 1990s. When his son was born on Jan. 16, 1999, there was no doubt he’d be named Peyton.
“I was actually a Notre Dame fan but I was definitely a fan of Manning at Tennessee,” Guidry said. “When our Peyton was born, Manning had only been with the Colts for a year and it wasn’t a name you heard very often. You see it a lot more now, which is really cool because it shows the influence he’s had here.”
Peyton Guidry, a junior at Mooresville, is not a quarterback. He chases quarterbacks.
“He’s a defensive end,” Guidry said. “He’s trying to sack quarterbacks.”
Heritage Christian sophomore Peyton Estes is a quarterback. So is Western Boone’s Peyton Young, though as a left-hander he might more resemble Steve Young than Peyton Manning.
But Young does wear the same No. 18 as his namesake.
“From the minute he could walk, we were throwing him a football,” Jeremy Young said. “So we always thought he’d be a receiver. You don’t see too many left-handed quarterbacks.”
Peyton as a girls’ name has long been more common, though it is also increasing in popularity. Every year since 2008, it has ranked among the top 60 names nationally for girls. In 2009, when Manning led the Colts to a Super Bowl for a second time, “Peyton” ranked 49th in Indiana as a girls’ name. “Payton”, a more common girls’ spelling through the years, ranked 66th.
Before the Colts arrived in 1984 – and to an extent, even today – there were a large number of Chicago Bears’ fans in the area. Plainfield sophomore linebacker Payton Leath and Eastern Hancock sophomore receiver Payton Wilkinson were both named after one of the Bears’ all-time greats, Walter Payton.
Though Manning left the Colts for the Denver Broncos in 2012, his legacy as a football player and for his philanthropic work will leave a lasting impact for decades to come. His name will also live on, in more ways than one.
“Everything he’s done since our son was born has reinforced us liking the name even more,” Jeremy Young said. “The excitement he brought to our town and everything he’s done for our community is hard to believe. We used to get some questions about our son’s name when he was little. Now, you don’t even think twice about it.”
For future reference: Andrew was the 17th most popular boys name in Indiana in 2014.
Call Star reporter Kyle Neddenriep at (317) 444-6649.
Here’s a look at where Peyton ranks for boys’ births in Indiana during his tenure with the Colts (source: socialsecurity.gov)
1998 – outside top 100
1999 – outside top 100
2000 – 78th
2001 – 79th
2002 – outside top 100
2003 – outside top 100
2004 – 86th
2005 – 70th
2006 – 65th
2007 – 66th
2008 – 81st
2009 – 99th
2010 – 91st
2011 – outside top 100
*Of note: When Manning was runner-up for the Heisman Trophy at Tennessee in 1997, “Peyton” ranked 52nd that year as a boys’ name in Tennessee.
*Of note II: The highest-ranking state for “Peyton” as a boys name in 2014 was Mississippi, where it ranked 60th. Manning’s father, Archie, played in college at Ole Miss. It has not ranked in the top 100 in Colorado as a boys’ name since Manning’s arrival as a Bronco in 2012.