Omaha enjoys Manning right now

Omaha, Neb., is a good sports town, home to baseball’s College World Series, not to mention Mutual of Omaha (sponsor of the oh-so-famous old “Wild Kingdom” television show) and those great Omaha steaks.

But the city is quickly becoming known for being part of quarterback Peyton Manning’s cadence, the directions he yells to his teammates before snapping the ball prior to each play.

There has been much speculation over the last few weeks about what “Omaha” means to the QB of the AFC champion Denver Broncos.

Some wonder if it tells his teammates when he’s about to snap the ball, others say it could be a code indicating to do the opposite of a previous play. Certainly at times it’s used to try to draw the defense offsides. The word has been shouted by other college and NFL quarterbacks as well, though not with the degree of publicity as the last few weeks of Denver football games.

Manning himself said it could mean different things in different situations. Obviously, it’s better for the Broncos if we don’t know what it means or more importantly if the Seattle Seahawks don’t know what it means, exactly.

Still, the call, being heard by millions of fans watching on TV thanks to sideline microphones, is getting quite a bit of attention.

The city of Omaha pledged funds to Manning’s charity for every time he called out the city’s name. Thirty-one “Omaha’s” resulted in nearly $25,000 in donations following Sunday’s game, but as they say in those MasterCard commercialsn the thrill of hearing your city’s name shouted by a future hall-of-fame quarterback on the way to the Super Bowl priceless!

Omaha officials valued the free advertising in the millions of dollars.

Maybe this could start a trend. I wonder if we could get Seahawks QB Russell Wilson to yell “Altoona, Altoona” during his play calls or maybe he’d prefer “Hollidaysburg,” “Tyrone,” “Bellwood,” or “Bedford.” A charitable donation would cost a lot less than the millions being shelled out for commercial airtime in the biggest football game of the year, and significantly less than the typical endorsement fees for professional athletes. And those donations will most certainly do some good.

Or perhaps quarterbacks will start reaping payment for their play calls imagine the money they could get for a “Pepsi” or “Chevrolet” to be inserted into a cadence. It’s reminiscent of players being chased down during post-championship celebrations to say “I’m going to Disneyworld!”

With the Super Bowl media blitz just beginning, we are sure to hear more about Omaha between now and Feb. 2, shining a positive light on a grateful Nebraska city, as well as the off-field work of Manning’s Peyback Foundation.

The hits on the Omaha website will undoubtedly skyrocket, and for some reason, when watching the Super Bowl, millions of people will be subconsciously thinking about college baseball, Marlin Perkins and big fat ribeye.

Kellie Goodman Shaffer can be reached at Her column appears on Tuesdays.