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Omaha's newest favorite pro quarterback could get a charitable payback for his shout-outs to our city — in donations to his foundation for at-risk kids.
Responding to Peyton Manning's frequent “Omaha! Omaha!” calls before the ball is snapped, five Omaha corporations say they will collectively donate $500 to his Peyback Foundation for every time he says “Omaha” during Sunday's nationally televised playoff game.
“We're pulling for a lot of Manning snaps on Sunday, a lot of 'Omahas,' ” said David Brown, president and CEO of the Greater Omaha Chamber of Commerce. “And a lot of money for the kids helped by his foundation.”
Meanwhile, ESPN was in town shooting footage of widely-known Omahans and others impersonating Manning's audibles. For example, white-coated butchers at Omaha Steaks lined a long table as they cut filet mignons for shipment around the world and shouted in unison, “Omaha! Omaha!”
Cameras also rolled Wednesday at Omaha Benson High, where lots of “Omaha!” shouts were heard between classes. ESPN told chamber officials that a segment on Omaha and the pre-snap shouts by the Denver Broncos quarterback will air on the network's 11 a.m. Sunday “NFL Countdown” show.
Manning and other quarterbacks have shouted “Omaha!” at the line of scrimmage for years, and opinions differ on exactly what the code word “Omaha” means — or if it means different things at different times.
It might alert teammates to changing a play, or it might alter the snap count to try to draw an opponent offside. Or perhaps something else.
Wednesday, Manning gave a tongue-in-cheek explanation that “Omaha!” could signal a run, or maybe a pass, or perhaps just about anything — depending on the day's wind conditions or the color of his team's jerseys. “It varies, really, play to play,” he joked at a press conference.
Whatever it means, Manning's “Omaha! Omaha!” shouts in Sunday's victory over the San Diego Chargers have caused a print, broadcast, social-media and conversational buzz far beyond Omaha.
Universal Information Services of Omaha, which tracks media mentions for clients, said that as of Tuesday, 126 print and 120 broadcast stories were reported. And that number appeared to grow on Wednesday.
Adding a bit of fun to anticipation for Sunday's game is that the opposing quarterback, Tom Brady of the New England Patriots, also has shouted “Omaha!” at times in the past. But the focus for Omahans will be on Peyton.
The Omaha Steaks public relations staff came up with the idea to donate to Manning's foundation, and the chamber's Brown enlisted other companies to join in.
The others are ConAgra Foods, First National Bank of Omaha, Mutual of Omaha and Union Pacific.
Manning shouted “Omaha! Omaha!” before at least 40 plays in last Sunday's game, so that's at least two Omahas for each play. If he says Omaha 80 times this Sunday, that would be $40,000 for the superstar quarterback's charity.
“Omaha is a city filled with philanthropic MVPs,” Brown said. “It's no surprise our business leaders would take this ball and run with it.”
Let's just hope that Peyton doesn't survey the defense and change his pre-snap code word to “Kalamazoo! Kalamazoo!”