Originally created 04/24/98

Manning selection already paying off for Colts



INDIANAPOLIS -- Peyton Manning already is a hit. So is the Indianapolis Colts website, which has had a half-million hits since the Tennessee quarterback became the No. 1 pick in the NFL draft.

Peyton-mania already is in full bloom, and victory-starved Colts fans will get their first look at Manning on Sunday when the team winds up its three-day minicamp at the RCA Dome.

"The interest in the team since Manning was picked has been unlike anything we've experienced previously," said Craig Kelley, Colts director of public relations. "This team has never received the attention we've gotten this week, and I only expect it to grow."

Meanwhile, the website of the Colts and the team's ticket office are being swamped.

"I'd estimate that we've had 500,000 hits on the site since he was drafted on Saturday," director of marketing Patrick Coyle said. "There were 181,000 hits in the first 48 hours after the selection. This is a new site (www.Colts.com), and we're real pleased with traffic. It will give displaced fans a chance to get all the news about our team."

The Colts earned the No. 1 pick in the draft by finishing a league-worst 3-13 last season. Starting quarterback Jim Harbaugh and backup Paul Justin were traded, and within minutes after the first pick on Saturday, coach Jim Mora awarded the starting job to Manning.

Since then, phones have been ringing constantly in the team's ticket and public relations offices. At Logo Athletic, the local company that produces NFL souvenir jerseys, they're reporting "unprecedented" orders for a draft pick. However, the jerseys can't be sold until Manning signs a contract or reaches an agreement with the player's union.

"We've already run 3,000 Manning jerseys, and they'll be shipped to stores as soon as an agreement is reached," Logo Athletic vice president Ed White said. "We've never had this kind of demand so quickly for someone who hasn't taken a snap in a game."

Meanwhile, some lucky fan will get a chance to catch Manning's first pass when the Colts practice at the RCA Dome, and 25,000 fans will leave the practice with an autographed picture of the quarterback in his new Colts jersey.

Representatives of Jay Leno wanted to book Manning for an appearance this week. Officials from ESPN were interested in having Manning and his father, Archie, do an "Up Close" program. Fox Sports put in a call, as did television stations from Knoxville, Tenn., and New Orleans.

"Peyton is saying no to all the requests," Kelley said. "He just wants to get ready for this week's minicamp and is spending his time studying the playbook."

The team begins its three-day, five-practice minicamp on Friday. Before Sunday's practice begins, a fan selected in a random drawing will get to take the field to catch a pass from the new quarterback.

Many of the calls to the Colts ticket office are coming from Tennessee, where Manning-mania has flourished during his four-year career with the Volunteers.

"We're talking to a Knoxville station about carrying broadcasts of our games," Coyle said. "And we've already sold some tickets to people from Tennessee."