Earlier this week, Peyton Manning became a former-NFL quarterback.
After 18 years in the National Football League, the 39-year old Manning made his emotional announcement after earning two Super Bowl victories with two different teams; five league Most Valuable Player awards; as well as almost every major record in the league.
Manning is virtually guaranteed to be a first-round inductee to the Pro Football Hall of Fame when he's eligible in five years.
Despite recent allegations of illegal use of banned substances while still a player and a locker room harassment incident 20 years ago, his carefully-nurtured reputation and positive conduct also guarantee the multi-millionaire a phenomenal "second act" when he decides what he wants to do after the NFL.
Manning is already a prized corporate pitchman and entrepreneur, but a rewarding new career as a sports broadcaster, motivational speaker, sports team owner or politician awaits him due in large part to the following three lessons we can learn from his nearly flawless reputation management skills.
1. Go out on top.
Too many celebrities, musicians and athletes linger too long in the spotlight. They end up fading into the background and ultimately hurting their brand.
Many fans agree that NFL greats such as Joe Namath and Johnny Unitas overstayed their abilities to effectively compete within the league, limiting their post-NFL options.
It's a rarity for an NFL player to decide to have their last game be a Super Bowl win as Manning did.
2. Know your limits.
Manning could never be described as a running quarterback. Despite an otherworldly ability to decipher defensive schemes instantly and progress to his open receivers, Manning was a textbook "pocket passer" who relied on protection from the offensive line.
After a series of neck surgeries, Manning was honest enough with himself to know his own physical limits and that his time as an elite NFL player was running out -- if it had not already passed.
3. Every minute matters.
There's an old proverb that reads, "A moment of folly can ruin a lifetime of honor." From a public perception perspective, Manning embodied that axiom.
We've all seen in that Manning exhibits exceptional character in every public manner. He is welcoming to fans, supportive of sponsors, civil to critics and opponents. Those who know him best have long echoed that he also demonstrates those traits privately.
While everyone, including Manning, makes mistakes, he has distinguished himself as a man and a brand over the long haul by making every minute matter and avoiding fatal folly.
It's important to note that playing in the NFL doesn't guarantee a post-football windfall. In fact, it's reported that 78 percent of former NFL players declare bankruptcy, while other high-profile players such as Ryan Leaf, Lawrence Phillips and Art Chalice end up behind bars.
Even though Manning's greatness as a player on the field clearly separates him from former NFL failures, it's his reputation on and off the field that places him in a league of his own.