The football used in the second-to-last touchdown pass of quarterback Peyton Manning’s legendary career will cross the auction block on May 12, as part of Heritage Auctions’ online-only extended bidding format Sports Collectibles Catalog Auction. It is estimated at $20,000-plus.
“The last two of Manning’s record 579 touchdown passes came on Jan. 24, 2016, in the AFC Championship Game,” said Chris Nerat, sports consignment director at Heritage Auctions. “This is the first of those two balls, used in a 21-yard strike in the first quarter to Broncos tight end Owen Daniels.”
After Daniels’ celebratory spike of the ball, it bounded in the end zone grandstands, thudding against the forehead of the 10-year-old son of Chad Nelson, the consignor of the ball.
“In the bedlam of the celebration,” said Nerat, “Nelson initially thought the ball had come from another nearby fan, but he quickly realized the true derivation when he saw the Broncos logo and array of silver marker notations.”
These notations provide rock solid provenance to the ball. They were applied pre-game by referees and staffers tasked with assuring the integrity of the footballs, especially as the NFL was just one year removed from “Deflate-Gate.” Family photography from the game, showing a jubilant Daniels in the end zone holding the ball further bolsters the authenticity.
The Broncos would never trail the Patriots that day, establishing this as the last ball thrown by Manning to take the lead of a game. Two weeks later Manning closed out his peerless career as the owner of the bulk of the most significant records for the position. While his victory in Super Bowl 50 would be the 200th of his Hall of Fame career, he failed to find pay dirt in his glorious farewell, making this the last football Manning would throw to take the lead in a football game.
“Manning's induction in 2021 to the Pro Football Hall of Fame is a certainty on par with death and taxes,” said Nerat. “This has to be among the most significant Manning relics that will exist outside the walls of that hallowed ground in Canton.”