Playing for and being around John Elway meant a lot to Peyton Manning when he was checking out potential free-agent locations.
On the day he retired, hearing some of Elway's comments probably meant even more.
"Peyton Manning revolutionized the game," the Broncos general manager said Monday at Manning's retirement news conference. "We always used to think that a no-huddle was a fast paced, get to the line of scrimmage and keep people off balance. Peyton revolutionized it in that, 'You know, we're going to get to the line of scrimmage, we're going to take our time, I'm going to find out what you're doing, and then I'm going to pick you apart.'"
For Manning, who could spend months of his time reading accolades and tributes, hearing something like this from Elway has to be special and stand out among the rest. Manning was, after all, the most revered quarterback prospect to come out of the draft since Elway himself. There are few people who watch and understand the game as well as Elway does, which makes his words all the more relevant.
The best part is that Elway is not paying lip service to a quarterback that made him look awfully smart over the last few years. Manning did revolutionize football. The only reason some of his practices are not widely used across the NFL is because there are only a few quarterbacks who enter the league as smart and prepared as Manning was. Still, little things like the speed and frequency of audible, the mastery of a finite group of go-to plays, the maneuvering of personnel to create an advantage -- no one did it better than Peyton.
The picture-in-picture view of Manning reacting to Elway's words was priceless and a key ingredient to Monday's retirement festivities for this reason alone. A legend beaming at the podium talking about how much greater Manning was than anyone to ever play the game.