Broncos receiver Demaryius Thomas
"The more you knew Peyton, the closer you'd get with him. I used to go to his house and hang out with him. We'd watch TV, watch games, play with the kids. He didn't play no video games. He had no video games. We would just watch TV or get body work."
On Manning as a prankster:
"I remember the year we went to Duke [to work out in the offseason]. We had [Eric] Decker. The week before we went up to do the [training sessions], Peyton said, 'Everything is going to be free. You guys don't have to worry about nothing. Just get here.' We got there and we had dinner. We had rehab. We had hotel rooms. So, he kind of made fake sheets up that showed it was paid for. Only one person got one that was a bill, and you could see the guy's face. It was Eric Decker. It was like $3,000 or something like that. When you saw Decker's face, it was like priceless. That was just one of the pranks Peyton did."
Best moment on the field:
"I'd have to say 509 (career touchdown) against San Francisco. He made up his little own prank or joke to keep the ball away from him. When we scored 509, it was the most career touchdowns by any quarterback in NFL history. His thing was, he wanted everybody to try and keep the ball away from him, like we weren't going to give him the ball. That's just Peyton."
-- Vaughn McClure
"I didn't get that many opportunities to play against Peyton in my career, so I don't have a whole memory bank of games against him.
"The one thing I do remember, I believe it was a game in Houston I believe he set some sort of record against us. He always was setting records. And I got him, I made a pretty good hit on him after he just got the ball away one time and a couple plays later we were happened to be standing next to each other right after a play ... and he just kind of looked at me and he goes, 'You got me pretty good on that last one.'
"For me it was just a cool moment. You're a kid, you grow up watching Peyton Manning. He's playing for 18 years. I'm only 26 years old. So that moment was awesome for a guy who has accomplished so much in his career. He'll go down as obviously one of the greatest of all time.
"It's all the little moments. Times at the Pro Bowl I got to hang out with him. Times we just got to sit and chat and really just kind of hang out. It was pretty special to be able to share some moments with a guy who excelled at such an extremely high level. I wish him nothing but the best in retirement. He's an incredible football player that will be always remembered as one of the best ever."
-- Tania Ganguli
Former Colts coach Tony Dungy
"The thing that tells the whole story about Peyton, to me, was when we first met after the 1997 season, in January 1998, right before the draft and we were at the Maxwell Awards. I was getting honored as the coach of the year, and he was getting honored as the college player of the year. We rode over from the hotel to the event together.
"Had a nice time and at the end of the evening, I wished him luck. I said, 'I wish I could get a chance to coach you, but you're going to be the first pick in the draft. So that's not going to happen.'
"Then in 2002, four years later, I get the job in Indy and he comes to the press conference and comes to my office afterward. We had a really good meeting where he talked about wanting to be coached, wanting to win a championship. He said whatever it takes to win, and I said, 'You probably don't remember this, but we met at the Maxwell Awards.'
"Then he stopped me. He remembered everything. The name of the hotel, remembered my wife's name. He talked about what we talked about that night in the car on the way over four years prior. He recalled the whole night.
"I remember saying to myself that this guy is something special. His memory from the little details, what went on, remembering my wife's name. It was just stunning to me because I hadn't seen him in four years. He remembered it like it was yesterday. That told me how much attention to detail he had and how special he was. I knew we were going to have something pretty good in Indy."
-- Mike Wells
Former NFL linebacker Scott Fujita
"Divisional round of the playoffs after the 2003 season. We were 13-3 in K.C. and had the No. 2 seed. Peyton and the Colts came into Arrowhead, hot, and didn't punt one freaking time. Turned into a barn burner, and he ended our season. So I learned very early in my career how ridiculously good Peyton is."
And on getting revenge with a Super Bowl win over Manning with the New Orleans Saints:
"Let's just say that 25 years from now, I'm going to feel very proud to say that I was part of a team that beat Peyton Manning in the Super Bowl. And believe me that I'll be emphasizing that PEYTON MANNING was the quarterback! That absolutely raises the bar on the accomplishment. There's never been another quarterback that's kept me up at night that much, studying tendencies. And I still barely ever got a damn thing on him!"
-- Mike Triplett
Former NFL tight end Marcus Pollard
Pollard played with Indianapolis from 1995 to 2004. He is the Jacksonville Jaguars director of player development and youth football.
Pollard remembered a conversation he heard Manning having with a veteran player during Manning's rookie season in 1998.
Veteran player: "That's not what I'm supposed to do [on a certain play]."
Manning: "Yes, it is."
Veteran player: "It's not what my coach says I'm supposed to do."
Manning: "If I tell you it's Easter, you better hide eggs."
Pollard: "I died laughing. I said, 'Golly, this young boy's got it.' "
-- Mike DiRocco
On HBO's "Hard Knocks," James went up to Manning before their preseason game and introduced himself. But it wasn't the first time James had met Manning; that occurred when James was a freshman in college and Manning was playing a game in Jacksonville.
"My favorite memory was meeting him, of course, because I was still in the moment of, 'Wow, this is Peyton Manning.' I was starstruck. When I grew up, he played for Indianapolis, and I felt like every time Peyton Manning threw the ball, it was going to be completed. I was a Jaguar fan, and he was killing the Jaguars. ... [He once] came to play the Jaguars, and he torched us. But what was funny was I was still like a little kid in a candy store. After the game, I was like, 'Peyton! Peyton! You're the best ever.' I didn't bring it up when I met him when we played in Denver. I told him, 'Peyton, you're the best ever.' He just looked at me and smiled and gave me a wave like, 'I appreciate it man.' I think my favorite play from Peyton ... nobody expects Peyton Manning to run the ball. He play-actions and he trots into the end zone. It was almost like the most swag you ever seen, because nobody's even close to him, because nobody expects Peyton Manning to run it on the bootleg."
-- Tania Ganguli
Colts punter Pat McAfee on visiting the University of Tennessee with Manning in 2009:
"I had an opportunity to travel to Knoxville with Peyton when I was a rookie to watch a game. We fly down there, and we're met by the governor, the mayor, every police officer. We're in a couple different SUVs after we land. It was like welcoming home a hero, which is what he was. I knew he was big time around the world, but you never really know until you go to Knoxville.
"He's giving me a tour, and Peyton is a gentleman to everybody. He shakes the hand of every cop, every person that comes up to him. We finally get to the stadium and you can see Peyton start getting embarrassed, because there's this area where the team walks down the street to the stadium and fans get riled up, and the street they walk down is called Manning Way. And at the end of Manning Way, there's a huge picture that's like 50-yards-by-30-yards of Peyton Manning. You can totally tell he legitimately doesn't like it. He's not looking at it. I'm like, 'Man, you are everywhere here.'
"We're up in the suite during the game because he wanted to be on the field, but he was getting harassed by everybody. Bruce Pearl is up there, Pat Summit is up there and the president of the university is in there. To watch how he had no idea that he was the most important person on earth at that particular time, that particular moment. He was like honored to be having a conversation with Pat Summit, when it really was the other way around with those people feeling honored to talk to Peyton. That's when it really clicked to me that he truly is the 'guy.' He's a humbled guy who happens to be incredible at football. He could have been arrogant and snotty on that trip. That taught me the most about him."
-- Mike Wells
"[Manning] got drafted to the Colts when I was in the third grade. I watched him my whole life. My grandfather had season tickets and I'd go to one game every year, so to play against him was surreal. I did not meet him after [we played against the Broncos in 2013], but I got to talk to him the year before at the Pro Bowl. That was pretty neat. He came up and said, 'Hey, Ryan, I'm Peyton Manning,' and introduced himself. That blew my mind a little bit. For me, it was so unexpected that it was like, 'Oh, hi, nice to meet you.' You are kind of starstruck. This guy made football what it is in Indiana and made the Colts what they are in Indiana. It was pretty surreal to see not only the face of the Colts, the team I grew up watching, come up and introduce himself to you and to know who you are was pretty neat. [When I told] my grandfather, he was probably just as shocked as I was."
-- John Keim
Former New York Jets CB Ray Mickens
"There was a year or two when we looked forward to playing the Colts, I'll put it that way. With [then-defensive backs coach Bill] Belichick's game plans, we were very confident that Peyton would have a bad day and everyone would have an interception or some kind of goody handed to them. Well, that turned really quick. After a couple of years, he started picking up things faster and you realized he was a special player. By his third year, you couldn't do the things you did two years earlier. Yeah, there was a time we took advantage of him, but he turned the tables."
On Peyton's decision to stay in school in 1997, when the Jets had the No. 1 pick:
"We were hoping he'd come out of Tennessee early in '97, because we all thought he'd be a Jet. I'm still upset about that decision. I think we could've won a championship or two with that group of players. It was brutal, just brutal. There were a lot of conspiracy theories floating around. His dad orchestrated a lot of things, and some people think his dad didn't want Peyton playing for [Bill] Parcells because Parcells was, quote-unquote, a quarterback killer. That was one of the conspiracy theories. People still ask me about that. It still hurts to this day."
-- Rich Cimini
Former Eagles defensive end Trent Cole
Cole played against Manning three times as an Eagle. The Eagles lost the first meeting 45-21 in 2006. They lost the most recent one 52-20 in Denver in 2013.
In between, the Eagles beat Manning and the Colts 26-24 in 2010. It was the Eagles' only victory over Manning in five career meetings. Cole sacked Manning in that game.
"Going into that week against the Colts [in 2006], I just knew that he was a great quarterback. You really don't know until you get into a game and he looks at you. I'll never forget the look he gave me in that game a few times.
"He saw me move. A guy like me, a defensive end who gets up and moves around, he's scanning. I just remember watching his eyes, scanning. And then I made a move, and he looked at me. That was part of the scheme. We wanted to distract him a little bit.
"You really don't know how good he is until you're in that game with him -- how he operates. He's just very accurate. He's on the spot with his throws. And he saw everything. It was hard to mask blitzes against him.
"He's just so talented, and he will always be one of the best quarterbacks. He'll go down, in my opinion, as one of the five best ever because of how smart he was. As a player, you want to know things like, 'How does he approach the game? What is he looking for?'
"He studies players. He matches his players up against other players. He knows what player is going to beat who if they call this play.
"He's tall. He sees over the line, can see the field of view great. That's what made him so good."
-- Phil Sheridan
Texans offensive tackle Duane Brown
"My first game against the Colts, whenever we played against him, being on the sideline you were in awe. You hate to see him do well against your team, but you love the greatness that he competes with. ... It was amazing, at the same time, gut-wrenching because we had to go out there as an offense and compete and put up points after he did ... just watching him as a kid in middle school, high school, college ... I don't get starstruck often, but that's one person I felt like, 'Wow, I'm really here.' "
-- Tania Ganguli