Outcome: In a 29-17 win over Chicago, Manning overcame strong performances from teammates Dominic Rhodes and Joseph Addai for MVP honors (247 yards passing, 1 TD, 1 INT).
As a recruit: Manning was an elite national recruit who had scholarship offers from major programs, choosing Tennessee over the likes of Florida, FSU, Notre Dame and, of course, Ole Miss, where his father, Archie played. According to some recruiting services, however, Josh Booty was the better quarterback prospect. Manning, from Isidore (La.) Newman High, was named Gatorade's player of the year as a senior. Like Ward, Manning pre-dated the star-rating system that has popularized recruiting services.
Outcome: Though Manning's overall numbers were good but not great (19 of 34, 255 yards, 2 TDs, 1 INT), he saved both his touchdown passes for a fourth-quarter comeback in a 17-14 win over New England.
As a recruit: A highly regarded recruit, though not considered as good a prospect as Peyton Manning, the younger brother picked Ole Miss over Tennessee, LSU, Florida, Georgia and Texas. He played at the same school Peyton did, Isidore Newman, and USA Today named him the Louisiana player of the year. A key in the Rebels' success recruiting him was that David Cutcliffe, Peyton Manning's offensive coordinator at Tennessee, had been hired as head coach at Ole Miss.
As a recruit: Holmes was rated a three-star recruit and the No. 38 wide receiver in the nation by Rivals.com in 2002. Size (5-11, 178 pounds) had something to do with that, but he overcame that disadvantage at every level of his football career. He was a three-sport star at Belle Glade (Fla.) Glades Central High and signed with Ohio State over North Carolina State, Pittsburgh and Virginia Tech.
Outcome: With very little help from his rushing attack (18-for-51), Brees led a 31-17 win over Indianapolis with a 32-of-39 passing night for 288 yards, two scores and no interceptions.
As a recruit: Brees is a classic underdog story where his recruitment is concerned. Though he won a Texas state title at Austin Westlake as a 5A offensive player of the year in one of the nation's most competitive states for high school football, he was lightly regarded as a recruit. Recruiting expert Tom Lemming named him one of the biggest "misses" of his career. "Nobody really went after him. He's from Austin and Texas turned him down," Lemming said.
As a recruit: Like Brees, Rodgers was grossly underestimated as a recruit, drawing no scholarship offers and only an invitation to walk on at Illinois. No thanks, he said. Rodgers had to begin his college career at a community college and despite his success there, was still rated just three stars by Rivals.com. SuperPrep magazine rated him the 41st-best JuCo player in the nation at Butte Community College, and Cal only noticed him while recruiting a tight end on the team.
Outcome: In a low-scoring affair, Manning's 30-of-40 passing night with just one touchdown passes was enough for the MVP as New York nipped New England, 21-17.
Outcome: Flacco threw three touchdown passes in a 34-31 win over San Francisco, setting up a lucrative $120.6 million contract extension about a month later.
As a recruit: A lot of quarterbacks you've never heard of rated ahead of Flacco out of high school, who ranked just No. 39 among pro-style passers by Rivals.com in 2003 out of Audubon, N.J. Flacco signed with Pittsburgh over Rutgers as a lightly regarded three-star recruit, and later transferred to Delaware.
As a recruit: Smith was a four-star recruit out of high school, but at 6-2, 200 pounds, it was unclear what position he might play at the college level. As such, he was rated the No. 8 "athlete" in the nation. He signed with USC in 2007 over Cal, Notre Dame, Michigan and several others. He quickly settled in as a linebacker for the Trojans.
As a recruit: Brady sent tape of his highlights from San Mateo (Calif.) Serra High to colleges and drew interest from Michigan, where he eventually signed. He also considered Illinois, Stanford, USC and Cal, but a Bleacher Report feature characterizes Brady's recruitment as being in a stall before the family distributed the tapes to an estimated 54 schools.
As a recruit: Although he was only a 3-star recruit, Miller drew interest not only from Texas A&M but power programs such as Oklahoma, LSU and Florida. As only Miller can, he later described LSU's efforts to sign him as "that hot chick that just talks to you on Mondays." LSU's loss was the Aggies' gain, as Miller amassed 27.5 sacks over his last two college seasons.