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Not that anybody really cares, but our founding editor has been man-crushing on Peyton Manning ever since he interviewed the future NFL Hall of Famer during the quarterback’s senior year at the University of Tennessee in 1997.

Beyond that, Sic Willie has been a Colts fan since 1986 – following them through Mike Pagel, Jack Trudeau, Chris Chandler, Jeff George and Jim Harbaugh eras.

We have lived with the Colts and died with the Colts … so it’s not surprising that we’re dying a little bit inside as the reality of Manning’s neck injury begins to sink in.

Originally, Manning was supposed to play in Sunday’s season-opener against the Houston Texans – which would have marked his 227th consecutive start (including playoff games). That’s the second longest streak in NFL history (second only to Brett Favre).

Over that stretch, Manning has thrown for54,828 yards and 399 touchdowns – winning four MVP awards and one Super Bowl along the way. Those numbers (well, along with our man crush) are why we named Manning our “Athlete of the Decade” two years ago.

Unfortunately, Manning is now out for the season after doctors determined that he needed a second (and more intense) surgery on his neck. In fact, the specific surgery that Manning underwent – a “single level anterior fusion” – is the same surgery that ended the career of former USC wide receiver Sterling Sharpe.

Needless to say the man tears are flowing freely at Chez Sic Willie (and not in joy, as they have flown in years past).

Everybody needs heroes … and Peyton has always been ours.

We hope he makes it back, not just as fans of the Indianapolis Colts … but as fans of the game.

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