Peyton Manning- Yeah, I understand that he can be overexposed. And all those hand signals and audibles before the snap can get annoying. But he's so good at what he does and here's the evidence:
- Dude is smart, but he also studies like no one else. He is always watching film and between series he is looking at photos and making a lot of the adjustments himself. No one is more prepared than Manning and no one is better at making strategic adjustments than him. Peyton was blessed with a lot of talent, but he works as hard as anyone else. When he showed up to do Saturday Night Live, he arrived at NBC studios with binders of stuff he had studied and was diligently taking notes during planning. If he takes SNL this seriously, imagine how serious he takes Sundays.
- Austin Collie and Pierre Garcon: The Colts drafted two no names at wide receiver. Peyton's favorite, Marvin Harrison, was not resigned last season. Anthony Gonzalez, the slot receiver who played so well last season, was lost for the year with a knee injury. What do they do? They develop gems from gravel. Collie came out of the 4th round from BYU. Garcon? He was drafted in round six from Division III Mount Union. I believe that "champions" make those around them better. Michael Jordan did that. Drew Brees, of the Saints, does that. Peyton and the Colts do that so well.
"Winner" might be one of the most overused cliches in sports. We've really watered down the meaning. But I mean it when I say Drew Brees is a "winner":
- A three-sport star, he led Westlake High School (Austin, TX) to a perfect 16-0 season and a Texas 5A State Championship. Both were firsts in school history. Despite being the 1996 Texas 5A Player of the Year, he was not recruited by the Texas powerhouses: hometown Texas, Texas A&M, Texas Tech and Texas Christian. At 6 feet even, he was considered too small. His college choices for football: Big Ten bottom feeder Purdue and Ivy League Brown.
- At Purdue, a school overshadowed by Penn State, Ohio State, Michigan, etc, Brees was the Maxwell Award (for best college player) winner and a Heisman finalist in 2000. That season, he led the Boilermakers to their first Big Ten Championship and Rose Bowl appearance since 1967. Winners overachieve and make those around them better. Brees took Purdue past the tradition powers of the Big10 conference to Pasadena and the Rose Bowl.
- Most scouts thought Brees still too small for the NFL and that his arm strength was inadequate. Still, the San Diego Chargers took him in the second round of the 2001 draft. He beat out the famous (though old) Doug Flutie (see video below) for the starting job.
- In 2004, the Chargers drafted NC State quarterback Philip Rivers with the 4th pick in the NFL Draft. This was essentially a vote of no-confidence for Brees. Rivers held out of training camp and Brees played the entire season and earned a trip to the Pro Bowl.
- In 2005, Brees injured his shoulder while trying to recover a fumble. A free agent, Brees was offered a very un-lucrative contract with the Chargers (they basically chose Rivers) for someone who was just voted into his second consecutive Pro Bowl. He wanted to go to Miami, but Nick Saban (aka Satan), did not believe his shoulder to be healed. So Brees ended up in New Orleans post-Katrina.
- And what has Brees done in New Orleans? Rallied the city behind the Saints (remember, the Superdome was a Katrina refugee camp), given money to local schools, started the Drew Brees Foundation, and advocated locally and nationally on behalf of the city of New Orleans. Oh, and he took the Saints- formerly the "Aints", who wore bags over their heads to games, one of three franchises to never play in Big Game- to their first ever Super Bowl appearance.