KNOXVILLE (WATE) – Vol for Life and five time NFL MVP Peyton Manning announced Monday he is retiring from the NFL.

“There’s just something about 18 years. Eighteen is a good number and today I retire from pro football,” said Manning, voice cracking, at a press conference in Denver. “Almost 19 years ago to the day, I announced my decision to forgo the draft and stay at the University of Tennessee my senior year. It was one of the smartest decision I ever made. I cherished my time in Knoxville, especially my senior year, and I want Vol fans everywhere to know the unique role that you’ve played in my life.”

Manning talked about the struggles of his rookie season, when Indianapolis went to Baltimore – the Colts former home – and lost. NFL legend Johnny Unitas shook his hand after the game and told Manning he was rooting for him. Manning said the words of Unitas stuck with him.

“I hope he knows that I stayed at it, and I hope he’s a little proud of me,” Manning said.

Manning went on to thank the Indianapolis Colts, Denver Broncos and both teams’ fans, as well as his family and even his opponents through the years. Manning did not directly address what he would be doing next, but said there were a lot of options open to him.Related story:Peyton Manning’s most memorable commercials

“I’m totally convinced that the end of my football career is just the beginning of something I haven’t even discovered yet. Life is not shrinking for me. It’s morphing into a whole new world of possibilities for me,” he said.

Manning, a two-time Super Bowl Champion, was drafted by the Indianapolis Colts in 1998, and played for the Colts through the 2011 season. He helped the team win the Super Bowl in 2007 against the Chicago Bears, and was named MVP of the game. He has been playing for the Denver Broncos since he left the Indianapolis Colts.

“No player threw more touchdown passes during a regular season and playoffs during [his time with the Broncos,]” said Broncos CEO Joe Ellis. “Thank you for everything you did for this team and the community. We will miss you playing as quarterback.”Related story: Peyton Manning’s career and legacy

General Manager John Elway said Manning’s worth ethic was the most impressive thing about him.

Elway said Manning revolutionized the game. “We all used to think a no-huddle was a fast paced, get to the line of scrimmage and get people off balance. [Peyton said] I’m going to get to the line of scrimmage, figure out what you’re doing and I’m going to pick you apart.”

Head Coach Gary Kubiak said the 2015 season was a great one, but a tough one getting Manning healthy.Related story: Vols equipment manager remembers Peyton Manning’s time at UT

Manning listed some of the things he said he would miss about playing football:

  • Steak dinners at a place in Indianapolis after wins.
  • Battles against players such as John Lynch and Troy Polamalu (to name a few).
  • Going against coaches like Bill Belichick and Jeff Fisher, Rex Ryan (again, to name a few)
  • Figuring out blitzes with longtime center Jeff Saturday.
  • Demaryius Thomas constantly telling Manning he loved him and thanking Manning for coming to town each time he caught a TD pass.
  • Handshakes with Tom Brady.
  • The fans, even those in Foxborough and, “they sure should miss me, because they sure did get a lot of wins off me.”

Manning said he will always remember holding his kids after his Super Bowl win.

The Denver Broncos tweeted:

The Indianapolis Colts, who manning played 14 seasons with, tweeting this out:

Manning also saying if Tennessee would offer a quarterback coaching position to him, he would take it.

Phillip Fulmer, former Vol football coach, said he is happy for Peyton:

I’m excited for him. I got a text from him, real personal, telling me before he heard it on anywhere else he wanted to know he was retiring.  I just think it’s wonderful. He’s had a such a great legacy, and to finish like he did it’s almost fairybook story. It’s all that he’s accomplished, all that he’s done, there’s not much else to do. I’m anxious to see what he does on the next set.”

Read Previous story here: Peyton Manning considers coaching Vols after retiring from NFL

According to the Denver Broncos website, Manning leaves the league as arguably the best quarterback to ever play the game with many records and accomplishments, including:

  • NFL all-time record holder in career touchdown passes (539)
  • NFL all-time record holder in passing yards (71,940)
  • NFL career leader in combined regular-season and playoff wins by a starting quarterback (200)
  • Only quarterback in NFL history to lead two teams to a Super Bowl victory (Super Bowl XLI, 50)
  • Most NFL MVP awards (five)
  • Led teams to an NFL-record 15 playoff appearances
  • Most Pro Bowl appearances (14)

Vol football coach Butch Jones made a statement on Peyton on Sunday:

On behalf of our football program, we want to congratulate Peyton Manning on a truly remarkable career. We are so fortunate to have Peyton as an ambassador to the University of Tennessee. His name is and will always be synonymous with Tennessee. It’s really hard to put into words what he has accomplished in his career. Peyton defines excellence in every sense of the word. He was prepared for every situation and that came through meticulous work when no one was watching. He made his coaches and teammates better by pushing everyone for perfection. We talk to our players all the time about the process and that is the part Peyton never took for granted. He didn’t skip any steps on his way to building a legacy as one of the NFL’s all-time greatest players. He has impacted so many people off the field through all his charity work with the PeyBack Foundation and his summer football camp. He’s been a great resource for me and I’m honored to call him a friend. We can’t wait to see what the future holds for him.

During the press conference, Manning also addressed allegations mentioned in a lawsuit alleging a culture of sexual violence at the University of Tennessee.

“It is sad that some people don’t understand the truth and facts. I did not do what is alleged,” Manning said. “I’m not interested in re-litigating something that happened when I was 19. … Like Forrest Gump said, ‘That’s all I have to say about that.'”

In the final moments Manning got choked up when he talked about how hard he prepared during his 18-year career.

“When I look back on my NFL career I’ll know without a doubt that I gave everything I had to help my team walk away with a win,” he said, voice breaking with nearly every word. “There were other players more talented, but there was no one who could outprepare me. And because of that I have no regrets.”

He then paraphrased from the Bible: “I have fought the good fight. I finished my football race and after 18 years it’s time. God bless all of you and God bless football.”