Kelly: Peyton Manning can't stop talking about ... Omaha! Omaha! -
Published Tuesday, January 14, 2014 at 1:00 am / Updated at 6:40 pm
Kelly: Peyton Manning can't stop talking about ... Omaha! Omaha!
Omaha, Omaha, Omaha!
Omaha has had other moments in the sun, in addition to being a favorite audible call of NFL quarterbacks. To wit:

• “Omaha Mall,” a 2010 song by Justin Bieber

• Omaha, 1935 winner of horse racing's Triple Crown

• Omaha Beach, a historic WWII landing site of Allied forces on D-Day

• Omaha hold 'em, a popular type of poker

• "State Fair Omaha," words on hot-air balloon in “The Wizard of Oz”

• "Breaking Bad": “A month from now, best-case scenario, I'm managing a Cinnabon in Omaha.”

ESPN analysts discuss the meaning behind Peyton Manning's "Omaha" calls at the line of scrimmage.

Read The World-Herald sports blog about Omaha's moment in the spotlight.

* * *

Millions across the country heard Peyton Manning on Sunday, as he has in the past, repeatedly calling out, “Omaha! Omaha!”

One onlooker heard the call not on TV but live and at close quarters — Omaha attorney Clete Blakeman, who refereed the Broncos-Chargers playoff game.

“I heard it all day long,” Clete said Monday. “At one point we had a commercial break and I said, 'Peyton, you know I'm from Omaha, right?' He just kind of chuckled.”

“Omaha!” is a code word that means something to Peyton's Denver teammates. It's a term he has used for years as he steps to the line of scrimmage, surveys the defensive alignment and begins his pre-snap count. Other quarterbacks have used it, too.

When people from elsewhere hear or read of “Omaha,” they might associate it with widely known icons — Omaha Steaks, Mutual of Omaha or the Oracle of Omaha, investor Warren Buffett.

But what does it mean when an iconic quarterback calls out “Omaha!”?

“I think it's an audible trigger,” said Clete, a University of Nebraska quarterback in the mid-1980s. “If he yells 'Omaha!' it triggers the next play.

“At Nebraska, we used to signal a change by saying, 'Check! Check!' It's kind of like an alert. The code or number that's called next is the trigger to what the new play will be.”

Others have said that “Omaha!” means “opposite.” In other words, if the original call was a running play to the right, the call means run to the left.

Or it could relate to the snap count. Peyton drew the Chargers offsides a few times, and some observers say “Omaha!” signaled his teammates that the snap would come on the count of 2 instead of 1.

To some, all of this is more than Inside Football. The frequent calls of “Omaha!” delight the Greater Omaha Chamber of Commerce and the Omaha Convention and Visitors Bureau.

The bureau tweeted: “We certainly appreciate all the love from #PeytonManning.”

That message was retweeted widely, including on NFL on Fox and NFL on ESPN. Within two hours, the bureau said, the tweet was trending, meaning it became one of the most popular topics mentioned nationally on Twitter.

The blogger SB Nation wrote: “Peyton Manning can't stop talking about Omaha.”

Others tweeted:

» “I'm totally going to be just blurting Omaha out @ work all day.”

» “I want to yell 'Omaha! Omaha!' at the self-checkout at the grocery store, and see if someone jumps out of line.”

» “You (Omaha) might wind up with the least expensive Super Bowl ads ever.”

OWH Columnists
Columnists Michael Kelly, Erin Grace and Matthew Hansen write about people, places and events around Omaha. Read more of their work here.

It's not the first time this has come up. Quarterbacks — including Peyton's brother Eli of the New York Giants — have been using “Omaha!” for years, and The World-Herald has reported on it more than once before.

But Manning's repeated use of our city's name — on 44 of Denver's 70 plays — stood out on Sunday.

“It was clear and crisp, and you could hear it really well,” said Chamber of Commerce President David Brown, who watched the game on TV. “There's been an incredible amount of social media, and I'm getting (news media) calls from Phoenix, Los Angeles, Denver and D.C., as well as the Associated Press. There's all kinds of interest. It just went viral.”

Brown, who played defensive end for Dartmouth in the 1970s, said the chamber is trying to determine how to further capitalize on the moment. There's not enough money to buy an ad for Denver's game this Sunday against the New England Patriots, whose quarterback, Tom Brady, also has used the “Omaha!” audible.

The Convention and Visitors Bureau took note of the possibility that both quarterbacks could be shouting our town's name from the line of scrimmage. The bureau wryly suggested in a tweet that the coming Manning-Brady playoff game needs a name of its own: “Omaha Bowl has a great ring to it.”

In any case, reports of “Omaha! Omaha!” have traveled far and wide — even to Paris. The English version of the French news agency Agence France-Presse carried the headline Monday, “NFL: Manning's signal call shout-outs delight 'Omaha.' ”

Peyton, always a gentleman, has visited Omaha at least once. He spoke at Boys Town in 1999, when he was 23, stressing that athletes are role models.

He was also the opposing quarterback in a historic Husker game — Tom Osborne's last as head coach. After NU thrashed Tennessee 42-17, the national coaches' poll voted the 1997 Huskers No. 1 in the country.

“We just got beat by a better team that night,” Peyton said at Boys Town. “They were so strong and had a lot to play for — the national championship, and it was Coach Osborne's last game. It wasn't great timing on our part.”

Local officials know that the timing is always right for free publicity, even if it's just a future Hall of Fame quarterback repeatedly calling out the city's name.

Said the chamber's Brown: “I just kept smiling every time he said it.”

Omaha Steaks couldn't resist getting into the act:

* * *

Video: What does Omaha mean? Former NFL players explain:

Video: Peyton Manning discusses his "Omaha" call Wednesday:

Contact the writer: Michael Kelly    |   402-444-1000

Mike writes three columns a week on a variety of topics.

Villanova tops Creighton
Author Gabriel Garcia Marquez dies at 87
Airbnb event seeks Omaha-area hosts for Berkshire weekend, CWS
NU's Knighten making noise from third base
Ackerman: Eagle Raceway champ set for opener
Wong, Huskers set sights on super six
Intoxicated man with pellet gun climbs billboard's scaffold; is arrested
Notes: Montalvo signs Division I papers with Texas State
Changstrom, Jays ready to face off with league leader DePaul
Maha Music Festival announces lineup; might be its best yet
UNO guard Jalen Bradley transferring to Northeast CC
UNO’s Spenner sets school record in heptathlon
Reiver shot-blocker headed to Pittsburgh
Creighton men get two commits for next season
Jensen, Omahans set for Bellator bouts
Last day of 2014 Legislature: Praise, passage of a last few bills and more on mountain lions
'The war is not over,' Chambers says, but legislative session about is
A recap of what got done — and what didn't — in the 2014 legislative session
PAC funded by Senate candidate Ben Sasse's great-uncle releases Shane Osborn attack ad
Omaha woman, 30, battling breast cancer for third time
Teen killed at Gallagher Park was shot in head as he sat in SUV, friend who was wounded says
Kelly: Creighton's McDermotts put good faces on an Omaha tradition
New UNO center strengthens ties between campus, community
Threat found in Millard West bathroom deemed 'not credible'
Lincoln principal apologizes for flier advising students not to tattle on bullies

Deadline Deal thumbnail
Dr. Welbes Natural Health Clinic
$129 for 2 LipoLaser Sessions with Additional Complimentary Services ($605 value)
Buy Now
< >
Blog: Dirk's 'Mad Chatter'
Dirk Chatelain offers his thoughts on the latest news from around the sports world, complete with links to the best articles, opinion columns, YouTube videos and more.
Civic Auditorium Timeline
World-Herald columnist Tom Shatel asked readers for their favorite memories of the Civic Auditorium. We combined their submissions with a few key events or moments in the auditorium's history.
CWS: Banner Years
The College World Series historical database, a growing home for historical information about past NCAA baseball championships, which have been played in Omaha since 1950.
Downtown Omaha event map
Discover the area surrounding the CenturyLink Center, TD Ameritrade Park and downtown Omaha -- including restaurants, arts & entertainment venues, hotels and local retail outlets.
Facebook: Tom Shatel's page
Get Tom Shatel's sports columns delivered straight to your Facebook feed.
Follow Tom Shatel on Twitter
Get instant analysis and commentary from World-Herald columnist Tom Shatel on Twitter.
Nebraska high school basketball's greatest night
Four elite teams. Two buzzer-beaters. One packed house. On March 11, 1989, the stars aligned and produced the best night in Nebraska high school basketball history.
Shatel's blog
Check out the latest from World-Herald sports columnist Tom Shatel.
Shatel: Tom's Take on 20 Unforgettable Years in Sports
Get World-Herald columnist Tom Shatel's book "Shatel: Tom's Take on 20 Unforgettable Years in Sports."
Super Bowl: Through the years
The Super Bowl is a yearly media madhouse. See how The World-Herald sports section's front pages portrayed each of the Super Bowl victories won by those players celebrated in our Mt. Rushmore of Super Bowl QBs.
Talk sports with World-Herald reporters
World-Herald reporters log on to talk about the latest news surrounding the Huskers, Jays, Mavericks, high schools sports and more. Check out the upcoming chat schedule or replay the latest discussions with the fans.
The disappearance of small-town football
Friday night lights across rural Nebraska are going dark. But one town, in its last season of gridiron independence, proved that school spirit is stronger than ever.
The Nebraska 100
In an historic 2005 series, The World-Herald selected the state’s all-time top 100 athletes. In a new web exclusive, see the digitized collection for the first time.
2013 college football preview
View our 2013 college football preview, a 26-page, three-part section filled with coverage of the Huskers, Big Ten conference and more.
Big Red Bowl Retrospective
See complete historical results, game recaps and photo coverage from the Nebraska Cornhuskers college football bowl game appearances, from the 1941 Rose Bowl up to today.
Want to get World-Herald stories sent directly to your home or work computer? Sign up for's News Alerts and you will receive e-mails with the day's top stories.
Can't find what you need? Click here for site map »