Thirteen-year-old Gracie Merrill of West Jordan, Utah, was featured on ESPN's Outside the Lines in August, discussing her participation in the Utah Girls Tackle Football League, believed to be the first all-girls tackle league in the country.
Gracie, a huge fan of Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning, did her on-camera interview in an orange Manning No. 18 jersey. She talked about her love for football and her appreciation of having the chance to play a sport she never thought she'd be allowed to.
After the episode aired, her father posted a link to the segment on a Broncos Facebook fan page, hoping someone within the organization would take notice.
Sure enough, an autographed picture of Manning was waiting in the Merrills' mailbox a week or so later.
Peyton had seen the segment and passed along the signed photo with a personal note. Gracie's parents knew about it and opted to keep it a surprise,
“It was so cool,” Gracie told USAFootball.com. “I can’t believe the most famous quarterback in the NFL would send me a personal letter. I was on Cloud Nine.”
For visual evidence, her dad posted the moment on YouTube.
The Outside the Lines clip is available here.
- Jeremy Woo