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Legendary quarterback Peyton Manning discusses parallels with dentistry

November 06, 2017

By Michelle Manchir

Photo of Peyton Manning
Leadership: Peyton Manning tells the audience at ADA 2017 – America's Dental Meeting that attitudes are contagious: "It's up to you if yours is worth catching." Photo by EZ Event Photography
Atlanta — Dentists' jobs are not all that different from that of NFL quarterbacks.

At least when it comes to the importance of teamwork and adapting to change, success in the dental field does have similarities to success on the football field, Peyton Manning told an enthusiastic crowd who welcomed him with a standing ovation Oct. 20 for the ADA Distinguished Speaker Series at ADA 2017 – America's Dental Meeting.

"The people that you surround yourself with and how you choose to work together will be a huge part of your record when your individual seasons are done," said Mr. Manning.

The five-time NFL Most Valuable Player and two-time Super Bowl champ told the audience that, like quarterbacks, dentists have to anticipate "what's coming down the road" and prepare their dental teams for what's ahead in a changing market.

"Quarterbacks also have to anticipate, or else they get plowed into the dirt," he said.

He said that leadership is an honor, telling the crowd it must be earned and doesn't just come with a title.

"If you can't influence a team, it's awfully hard to lead a team."

Mr. Manning punctuated his motivational talk with funny anecdotes from his career, such as unexpectedly having to join starters as a freshman on the field during one his first games while playing college football at the University of Tennessee. His dad, football player Archie Manning, had always told him to be a leader in the huddle, but when he joined the starters as a plucky newcomer, a senior, 6 feet 5 inches and 330 pounds, put him in his place, he said.

Leaders must not be paralyzed by setbacks, he said, and "you cannot overestimate the power of your attitude."

Attitudes are contagious, he told the audience, "It's up to you to decide if yours is worth catching."

Mr. Manning's talk concluded with a sit-down Q-and-A session with then-ADA President Gary L. Roberts and Dr. Kathleen T. O'Loughlin, ADA executive director.

One question he answered from Dr. Roberts is why he would sometimes yell "Omaha" at the line of scrimmage. It merely served as a "trigger word," he said, as a way to let teammates know they had changed the play and gone to plan B. It was an easy, rhythmic word to shout out to move on with the game, he said, but added with a laugh that he's very popular in Nebraska.

At the beginning of the program, which kicked off with the beats of the Spirit of Atlanta Drum and Bugle Corps, Dr. Roberts introduced Mr. Manning to the stage, calling him "one of the most legendary athletes of our day."

"He inspires me," said Dr. Roberts. "I hope he inspires you."

Mr. Manning, who led both the Indianapolis Colts and Denver Broncos to Super Bowl victories, retired from football in 2016. His philanthropic work is widespread. Among the efforts, he and his wife Ashley, established the PeyBack Foundation in 1999 to promote the future success of disadvantaged youth by assisting programs that provide leadership and growth opportunities for children at risk.

The PeyBack Foundation has provided more than $12 million of impact to at-risk youth through its grants and programs since its inception.

The ADA Distinguished Speaker Series annually presents renowned personalities with notable careers and accomplishments in politics, media and industry.