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December 06, 2001

Outtakes: Peyton Manning

UNCUT OUTTAKES: A condensed version of Dan Patrick's interview with Indianapolis Colts quarterback Peyton Manning appears in the Sept. 3 edition of ESPN The Magazine.

Peyton Manning
It's time for Peyton Manning to prove that he can win a big game.
Dan Patrick: How did you propose to your wife?
Peyton Manning: We were on a little July Fourth vacation in Cancun right before training camp -- on the beach. You know, I'd read articles about all the cheesy lines people had given. It's just not me. So it was pretty standard: Ashley, will you marry me? She said yes, gets a hug, the rest is history.
DP: Well, that sounds like Tommy Lee and Pamela Anderson.
PM: On the beach?
DP: Yeah, I think they got married on the beach.
PM: We didn't get married on the beach. Just a simple proposal. Like I say, I was in Cancun. I thought about dropping the ring in the margarita at dinner. That wasn't going to work. I thought about acting like I was had stepped on something sharp and have the ring on my toe. That wasn't going to work. So I just went standard.
DP: Was there one that was suggested to you that was totally out of the question, that was just so bad?
PM: The margarita one ... somebody told me would be great. Give it to the waiter, let him put it into the margarita and serve it. I was like, I'm not giving the ring to a waiter in Cancun.
DP: You may not see it again.
PM: Yeah.
DP: He'll come back wearing it, saying, what ring? Where did you honeymoon?
PM: We went down to Mexico again. We went down to Punta Mita. It's a Four Seasons resort right next to Puerta Vallerta. Very, very nice.
DP: Oh, OK. Did anybody recognize you?
PM: Not really. Or they did but they left me alone. So that's why it was nice -- it was a quality place. Although on the last day -- every time I go to the beach I always bring a football and Ashley likes to throw the football. And the last day, we were throwing the football on the beach and the word got out -- it was buzzing a little bit. So there were some kids, you know, some 10-year-old kids with their parents on spring break who started coming out and wanted to play. But like I said, that was the last day and we were leaving the next day, so we were pretty safe.
DP: Did you wear your jersey down to the beach, too?
PM: I had my high school letter jacket on, actually. But I think it was Ashley's proper passing form that they recognized. She had to have been married to some NFL quarterback.
DP: There's a quarterback on the beach and some guy, too.
PM: Exactly, more or less.

DP: Does your dad have any football clichés that he'll bring up? [Manning's father, Archie, was an NFL quarterback]
PM: As far as one-liners or...
DP: Oh, just things he always says about football, about playing quarterback or whatever.
PM: The ones I always remember are from when I got into high school and started playing quarterback. You know, he never wanted to be my coach -- he left that to the high school coach. But he always gave me good tips about a two-minute drill. Just good reminders -- you know, no rocket science: Don't throw it away on fourth down. Always check the down and distance. Always know how much time is on the clock ... you know, stay in charge out there in the huddle.

I've told this story before. You know that great advice he gave me about being in charge of the huddle? My freshman year in college, the pre-college football pep talk he gave me was, if you get in the huddle at any time this season, I don't care how old you are, you're the quarterback, you're the leader, you can take control -- I don't care if you're 18 years old. You've got to be a leader as a quarterback. So the first game of the season at UCLA, playing in the Rose Bowl -- Keith Jackson, Bob Griese -- I'm just looking forward to watching the game ... anyway, seventh play of the season, the star quarterback goes down, so they put in Todd Helton. Todd Helton is a baseball player who knows baseball is his future and he's not playing very well. They pull him, so all of a sudden Tom says, tell Peyton to come in.

And I don't think I'm nervous, but all the hair on my arms is just sticking straight up. So anyway, it's time for me to jog in. We're getting beat 21-0, I think, so the team's kind of down. Anyway, I'm jogging in and right then I remember old dad's pep talk. So I get in there and say: All right, guys, I know I'm just a freshman, but I can take you down the field right now and lead you to a touchdown. And I'm fired up. And this left tackle, Jason Layman, grabs me by the shoulders and says, Peyton Freshman, shut the f--- up and call the f---ing play. No lie. I said, yes sir, and called the play -- and I didn't say another word the whole season.

DP: What's the favorite play you remember calling in college? And how does that compare with your favorite play from the Colts?
PM: Favorite pass play?
DP: Yeah. I didn't think it was going to be a running play.
PM: No, absolutely not. My favorite play in college was called Flip Right Hawk 62 Meyer. And Meyer, he had a play called Oscar which was kind of like an option route and Oscar became Meyer, obviously, Oscar Meyer. So it makes sense.
DP: And what about with the Colts?
PM: The Colts, our favorite play is probably Deuce Right, Waggle 15H Throwback, See Posts. That's one, and my other favorite play is Dice Right 218 Bastard. I've thrown, I think, five touchdowns to Marvin in 218 Bastard.
DP: Do you ever get confused? Do you ever say something in a huddle and then somebody says, that's not it? Or have you ever made up something and made it sound like it's so official just because you're saying it?
PM: It's not always as high tech as you think it is. But even if I'm not sure of what I'm doing, it's important to show the rest of the guys you know what you're doing.

DP: What did you think of Keanu Reeves' performance in "The Replacements"?
PM: I thought he was pretty good. I didn't think the movie was very good.
DP: What did you think of his form?
PM: Not bad. Played with Ohio State. I don't think he threw nearly as well as when he was Johnny Utah in -- God, what's the name of that movie with...
DP: That was "Point Break." Is there a quarterback who you would liken Keanu's performance to in the NFL? Would you say he's a Cade McNown? PM: Definitely a left-hander. A Tony Graziani, maybe?
DP: Left-handers don't throw the ball hard, they throw it pretty.
PM: They throw a pretty ball. Yeah, I guess Cade is just straight out of the hip. Cade's kind of side-armed. Keanu is more over the top.

DP: If I were going to put your highlight reel to music, what music would I use?
PM: I've thought about this before ... but now it's coming up a blank to me. I would probably go -- actually, I met Meat Loaf at the Kentucky Derby. I told him that his song "Paradise By The Dashboard Light" was a great highlight tape. So I like that one.
DP: It's good. That's different.
PM: Yes, it is different.
DP: I didn't expect that.
PM: And he was kind of fired up about it, as a matter of fact. He had no idea that I thought that song was a good highlight tape song.
DP: You two have about the same mobility.
PM: True. All he did was tell me the whole time he wanted to play in my golf tournament. I said, Meat Loaf, I don't have a golf tournament. Hey, don't tell me that. I want to play in your golf tournament...
DP: And Edgerrin James, if you were going to put his highlight reel to music?
PM: Whatever I choose, Edgerrin would throw out, I can guarantee that. I don't keep up enough...
DP: You're not hip enough?
PM: I mean, I try to be. I was talking to my good friend Kid Rock a while ago and he told me if I'd send him a helmet he'd send me an autographed platinum record. I thought that was a pretty sweet swap.
DP: How was the conversation with Kid Rock? Did you two know each other? I mean, did you have anything in common?
PM: I don't have that much in common with him. He asked me if we were playing in Detroit and I said we weren't playing this year ... that's kind of where the conversation ended, I think, somewhere around there.
DP: Did it begin with you guys playing in Detroit?
PM: It began with, Kid, where are you living? Where do you live now? His answer was along the lines of, "Detroit, bro. Cali's trying to get me. They can't get me, I'm sticking to the roots -- Detroit, bro." And hey, that was a definite answer to the question. But he's a good dude, he's a pretty cool fellow.

DP: I talked to a couple of coaches who coached at Tennessee. And I said one of the hard parts of the job is probably trying to find the color orange to go with your ties. Now, you being a former Tennessee quarterback, do you have that problem? Do you try to incorporate orange in your ties?
PM: Obviously, any time I'm back in Knoxville, if I can work it that way...
DP: What have you learned from Pat Summit?
PM: Just toughness -- toughness and discipline will win for you. Because in the four years that I was there, and following her since then -- those are her two things. Just great discipline, toughness and -- you know, in the NFL game today, there are a lot of better athletes than I am, and quarterbacks these days are faster than the quarterbacks have always been, they're running like crazy. But I kind of stick to my roots of the disciplined quarterback. You know, I'm doing the same routine every week, studying tapes and working hard, getting ready to play and making good decisions on Sundays. And like I said, in Tennessee, boy, Pat Summit, her team is so disciplined on the court and off the court, it's just proven to be a winner. So those are things that I learned from my dad, and watching her sort of reinforced that.

DP: Now, this can be personal or it can be football-related. So complete the sentence: In three years, I will be better at blank.
PM: In three years, I will be -- I will definitely be a better quarterback, because I think experience is your best teacher. And I think I'll be better at everything. I feel like I've improved at everything I've done every single year -- except golf. Golf, I've managed to stay exactly the same. I got to play Augusta and I was looking forward to -- I shot 80 last time from the front tees and played the back tees this time and shot 88. Although I did birdie 12 and 13 -- and that's really all you need to print in your story, I think, that I birdied 12 and 13. But I think I'll be better at everything. I think I'll be a better public speaker. I'll actually be a better husband because I'll be married three years at that point and I think you just improve with experience.

DP: What are your hobbies?
PM: I like to read and play golf. It's not a hobby but I feel like I do a really good job of keeping up with my friends. I have a list of people to call and check in on, and whether it's voice mail or -- you know, I have e-mail. I think e-mail is kind of a cheap way to communicate. It's a lazy way of writing a letter, you know. I write a letter every now and then, you know, pick out somebody and drop them a line, because I always like receiving letters. But I feel like I do a good job of communicating with all my friends from college, my relatives. So I don't know if it's a hobby -- but it's, I guess, a pretty good habit.

DP: Give me some defensive backs who are better than their reputations.
PM: Patrick Surtain is a good defensive back for the Miami Dolphins. Sam Madison is getting a lot of attention; he's very, very good, but Surtain is the other good one. I play him twice a year. He is a good player.
DP: There are certain guys in certain sports who just have your number, whether it's a hitter against a pitcher or vice versa. Is there a defensive player who just seems to figure you out and know where you're going?
PM: I don't know if he's figured me out, but I'll tell you who I have some really good battles with every time I play him -- I feel it's really hanging out going against each other -- is Zach Thomas. Because especially down in the division, Zach, I think, knows our offense better than our right tackle, Adam Meadows. We've played against him enough that he knows our calls and our checks and so when you play against him, I really have to change a lot of things up. I mean, if we're calling a play at the line of scrimmage, Zach will figure it out and he'll move. He'll move his alignment, he'll move the two tackles, just to kind of screw with me, just so I'm going to have to change the play again or call timeout. Although I have gotten him at times. On a pass play, I will act like I'm audibling into a running play and I'll have him move it all around. And then when I fake to run and he bites, it kind of brings a smile to my face. But he and I have some battles and I have a lot of respect for him, because I think he prepares for games the same way I do.

DP: Have you had a good conversation at the bottom of a pile?
PM: No ... what I've figured out about pro ball is that the veterans, the Junior Seaus, the Bruce Smiths (when he was at Buffalo), those are the guys who don't talk much ... now, they'll talk to the referees all day about how bad they're being held and they will give the refs a hard time -- "he's holding me" (but not saying it quite that polite). ... It kills me, Dan, when on first and 10 in the second quarter, I throw a pass, a cornerback breaks it up and he gets up dancing, pointing the other way. On first and 10. I'm telling you, whenever that happens, you can guarantee it, Marvin and I are going to go at that guy the very next play -- but probably all day. ... You know, people always ask us about Marvin Harrison and Edgerrin James, when they score a touchdown, they seem to be very classy. They don't spike it or do anything. You know why? Because they keep them. They keep every football. They probably don't dance or spike it, they keep it. Watch Marvin next time -- if we score, they run off with it. If we go for two, they know exactly where our equipment manager is and they throw it right to him and they keep it. That's why they don't spike it.

DP: Do you make eye contact with the defense? Is there a player you look at?
PM: I check the middle linebacker, kind of come with that eye on him because you can see if he's cheating one way or the other. And then I'll find the two safeties.
DP: But you'll look at them.
PM: Yeah, I'll look at their eyes as opposed to their jersey numbers and it's like a second of staring. My first year, I didn't really do it quite as much. I was kind of scared they might, like, tell me to quit looking at them. But now I've gotten to the point where I look at them. Especially if they're a young player, I think it might make them a little bit uneasy.
DP: You picked on Deion Sanders with Marvin...
PM: No ... the only thing about that is that everybody told me that you can't go after Deion. Believe me, I have all the respect in the world for him, but I guess I was somewhat challenged by our coaches who said, well, if you throw at him, you've got to be really, really accurate. So I think that was kind of a challenge. And we did throw at him a little bit, and they were good routes to run and I was pretty accurate with the football. And the one touchdown we got with Marvin, they were talking about how Marvin ran right by him, but Deion bit the snake. I mean, rarely, Dan, do you get a cornerback on play-action -- you can get linebackers you can get a defensive end, you can get safeties on play-action -- but rarely do you get a cornerback on that particular play. We caught Deion sneaking in.
DP: So it was you who made that play, not Marvin, is what you're telling me.
PM: Without me bragging about it, yeah. It was Edgerrin and I on the fake. If you watched it, you see Deion peeking in and then Marvin just goes right by him.
DP: See, here we thought Marvin did a great job. It's the little things.
PM: Right, but hey, Marvin kept the football, you can guarantee that.
DP: Oh, I know that. He probably wrote, "Beat Deion on this play."
PM: Exactly.

DP: Who's the best quarterback in the NFL?
PM: Well, you're asking me a question that's setting me up.
DP: No, because if you feel you are, then you are. If you say, hey, I'm not in this guy's league yet, then...
PM: I wouldn't...
DP: I mean, obviously, you think you're the best quarterback in the NFL.
PM: I play like that. I mean, on the football side. Now, when I'm off the field and I'm around other quarterbacks, whatever, I'm not walking tall with them. But in the weight room and the film room, that's certainly what my goal is to be, Dan, every day and every season. I'm off to a good start in my career, and I think to help my football team win games, I need to be the best player that I can be. And a way to keep making yourself better is to check out other quarterbacks and see what they're doing and to try to be better than them. Because there's no question that a lot of Sundays, if your team is going to win, you need to play better than the other quarterback. So that's part of my goal. In my workouts, my thing is to try to be the best quarterback in the league so that I can on Sundays play better than the other quarterbacks. It's not always going to happen, but I think you have to have that approach. But hey, there are some great ones out there.
DP: But you think you're the best quarterback?
PM: Yeah.
DP: And if I ask Kurt Warner that, he'd probably feel the same. If I ask Brett Favre that, he'd probably feel the same.
PM: I would say yes.

Peyton Manning
Colts QB Peyton Manning is the prototypical drop-back passer.
DP: Would you rather have a career like Joe Montana -- now, you've got to pick, you can't say both -- or Dan Marino?
PM: I am a huge Dan Marino guy. I mean, it pisses me off when I hear people say Dan Marino's career was incomplete. And it's 100 percent crap. ... He absolutely dominated the quarterback position his entire career from a statistics standpoint, with the come-from-behind victories, and, hey, the damned thing just didn't work out. He got to the Super Bowl once and didn't win and it sure wasn't for a lack of trying when he didn't get there again. So hey, everybody would love to say they won four Super Bowls -- winning one is certainly my goal every season, but ... I'm busting my butt every day to try to get there. So there's no question that I want to win Super Bowls and will be disappointed if I don't, but the whole idea that your career is incomplete without them, I hate that because it's all about what you give. And like I said, if you play 15 years and you say, boy, I could have given a little bit more, then that's your fault. But I know for a fact that the first three years that I played, I've given everything I've had every single season. So that's a tough question, because I hate the fact that people sometimes put that label on somebody, you know, on Dan Marino, on maybe Karl Malone up to this point, John Stockton Because damn, those guys are great pro football players, pro basketball players.
DP: So did you make a choice?
PM: I'd take them both.
DP: No, you can't. I understand what you're saying.
PM: I know you do.
DP: Hey, Marino did everything and didn't win in the Super Bowl. Montana had great teams and was a great quarterback in one Super Bowl, so it's almost like there's luck involved.
PM: No question.
DP: There's nothing else Marino could have done that would have helped his team win a Super Bowl.
PM: That's right.
DP: So that's what I'm saying. Would you rather be -- at the end of your career ... who are you, Marino or Montana?
PM: That's a bitch of a question you got there. I can't say I'd take either one?
DP: No, because I would, too. That's the easy way out. I mean, this is like a theory question at Tennessee -- you know, are you going to cheat off your neighbor or are you going to answer?
PM: What do they always say? Hey, if you leave it blank, it's not going to help you but it's not going to hurt you. How about that one?
DP: All right, that's fine.

DP: Which veteran quarterback do you think has helped you the most?
PM: Oh, a couple -- but not many. I've had a couple conversations with Aikman, just a couple of times, and I'm talking maybe two or three, and he gave me good advice. I mean, the same things I've heard, just keep working, keep working ... keep working, keep hanging in there.
DP: When Tennessee won the national title, after you graduated -- mixed emotions?
PM: No. Hey, that's my school. I played with all those guys. ... Vinny Testaverde and I have one thing in common: He and I are the only two quarterbacks, or only two players, who were picked in the first round and the next year their teams won the national championship. Hey, you know, same thing -- like I wasn't trying the four years that I was there? And things really worked out for them that next season ... I think a lot of people felt like they were part of that team.

DP: Were do you keep your ESPY?
PM: I'm building my house ... and I got a spot for it.
DP: The bedroom, or is it going to be in the den?
PM: It's going to be next to some game balls and some other awards.
DP: You don't even have your ESPY -- you probably gave it away, didn't you?
PM: I'm telling you...
DP: You probably gave it to somebody as a wedding present.
PM: I'm telling you, I have my ESPY.

DP: Which golf club do you hit best?
PM: I can hit the crap out of a 2-iron.
DP: You're the only guy who can.
PM: I'm telling you, I can hit a 2-iron. I don't hit a 3 very much. I'm doing a par-5 and I'll be in the commit zone, as they call it, and gotta go for a 2, and the guy's like, oh, you're laying up, huh? I give him, hey, I can hit a 2-iron.

DP: You haven't missed a game in three years.
PM: A start ... I'm second to Favre, by the way.
DP: But you're not keeping track of this, are you?
PM: I'm like 120 games out. That's an impressive record. I mean, that's a heck of a record there. That's being accountable, being responsible for your teammates every Sunday, being there, keeping yourself in shape in the offseason, keeping healthy, being tough. That's a heck of a deal about Brett. I have a lot of respect for that, like I said. I'm kind of proud to be second place, although you've got to have good luck and good protection, but it takes some toughness as well.
DP: Do you understand what Cal Ripken Jr. has done?
PM: Absolutely. Hey, it's absolutely amazing...

DP: What movie line do you quote most?
PM: When a fan is really bugging me during dinner or something, I slip that Chevy Chase line from "National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation": "Hey, can I do anything for you? Fix you anything, drive out to the middle of nowhere and leave you for dead?" Cracks me and my brother up every time.

DP: What part of training camp is the worst?
PM: It's not bad for me. Maybe now that I'm married, it will be different, because I think that's probably the hardest part. Guys that got kids, leaving their kids at home, missing their kids ... but it's not as bad for me on my body. You know, the line, when they get hit every day -- we don't get hit. Although we don't wear different color jerseys. I always hated that at Tennessee; we wore orange pants and green jerseys. What an awful-looking uniform.
DP: It's a fashion faux pas right there.
PM: As I said, we don't get hit but we wear the same color jersey, which I like a lot.
DP: It's one thing not to get hit, but at least look good when you're not being hit.
PM: Yeah, we don't have to look different. But they can see 18 -- 18 is a damned good quarterback number.
DP: Yeah, why pick that?
PM: That was my badge number in college and that was my number in high school ... I wanted 18 in college but they didn't have it available. So I wanted double digits and I chose 16, and then when I got to the pros, 18 was available, so I chose 18. You know, when you think about pro football, you think 16, you think one guy -- you think Montana. You think 18, I mean, if you're a true football fan, Roman Gabriel comes to mind, but other than that, there are not a whole lot of 18s ... it's just a good-looking number.

DP: Isn't it amazing that you and Michael Vick can play the same position? I mean, what does that say about the position?
PM: It's changing, it's changing. But ... people don't study it. Everybody says, wow, the position is really changing, everybody's mobile, you know. Not really. There's Warner and, although Gannon runs well, he doesn't run like those guys do. I mean, Vick and Daunte Culpepper, those guys run. Gannon gets away great, but there's still a place for the drop-back guys, for Warner and I and Brett. Although Brett runs -- Brett gets away pretty good. But I get away pretty good. I'm the least-sacked quarterback the past two years -- and mainly because of my protection. But I've gotten away from some sacks. ... So people say that because they think it's cool to say -- hey, what about the new breed of quarterbacks? But we're still around, you know, the drop-back quarterback is still around. But there's no question, there's not much of a pace for the stiff, drop-back, can't-get-away-from-anybody quarterbacks ... you've got to be able to get away now, there's no question, because you want to be able to improvise.
DP: As Marino said, he's deceptively slow. That's why he was able to last.
PM: Those white shoes. White shoes make you look faster. Notice that I'm probably 6-6 but I say 6-5½; 6-6 sounds slow. I heard that from Drew Bledsoe. You gotta give Bledsoe credit on that quote. Great quote.
DP: Why don't you wear black high tops?
PM: Well, that's what Unitas wore ... but probably because, as [Colts head coach] Jim Mora said, we're all wearing white cleats, and pretty much what he says goes around here.
DP: Do you think Namath would have listened to that or Johnny U would have listened to that? Be your own man.
PM: What you hear about those guys, they were great times, but they weren't in their second and third seasons, just remember that.
DP: Namath was. He came in, he set the world on fire. He didn't wait. You're a pussy, that's what you are. You're afraid. You're afraid of Jim Mora, good god.
PM: Look, I'm not afraid of any -- that man, you can jab, you can duck, you can have a little fun with that guy, but it better be on the right days ... Mora fined me one time. An owner gave him a car for getting his 100th win. They gave him a 740 BMW for getting his seventh win with the Colts, but 93 were with the Saints. Now, think about that ... they gave him a BMW, a heck of a deal. So Mora was kind of embarrassed about it.

Anyway, long story short, Madden and Summerall were doing our game the first time we had the big dogs in. They want an interview even before our 9 o'clock team meeting on Saturday. So I said, let's do it at 8:30, but get me out in time. I don't get out in time. It's not necessary to say whose fault it is; I don't get out on time. I'm late for our team meeting -- never been late for a team meeting in my life. Mora fined me $1,500: $500 if you're late, $1,500 if you miss it (I didn't walk in, so I missed it). So he and I went at it, you know. I've never been late, but it wasn't my fault. ... Anyway, the fine money goes to charity. I say, OK, I'm giving it to charity. He says, well, I don't care what you do. And there were f-bombs being thrown everywhere.

So next week he comes in and says, hey, did you get that fine thing taken care of? I said, no, I can't give it to charity -- they gotta use it to pay for that f---ing BMW they got you. I'm telling you, I had him. I had him. I mean, he doesn't take things like that very well. He didn't know whether I was serious or what, like a 15-second pause ... oh, it was classic -- one of my better ones.

DP: Give me your best Peyton Manning trivia question.
PM: Why does Peyton Manning lick his fingers after every play or throw?
DP: Yeah, I've noticed. What's that, a signal or a good luck thing?
PM: Nope. The finger lick is just a really bad habit -- I do it all the time. My wife, Ashley, is going to kill me if I do it at dinner one more time. I look like an animal about to dig in.
DP: Wait, you do it at dinner?
PM: Like I said, it's a habit. I do it at dinner, I do it out on the golf course when I'm about to putt. I need a little grip ... I'm telling you, this is a habit and the word is kind of getting out, but nobody has ever asked me that. I mean, sometimes I question you people, you know: Who's going to ask me something different? Nobody's ever asked me that. So when this comes out...
DP: Now they will.
PM: Now it comes out and it will be like Dan Patrick has this great scoop.

DP: Were you nervous when you interviewed Michael Vick for the Sunday Conversation following his No. 1 selection?
PM: I tell you, it was definitely a new experience for me. I really wasn't very nervous. I had some good coaching beforehand from some ESPN producers.
DP: How did you find Michael Vick?
PM: Michael was tired, for one thing. He had been in New York since Wednesday; I remember three years ago, when I was drafted, I got there Friday, got drafted Saturday, flew to Indianapolis and I was kind of through. But Michael had been there since Wednesday, and I think he really was surprised Friday when he said he got a knock on his door from his agent and he was told there was going to be a trade. But he seemed very happy about going to Atlanta and I think it had just been a real whirlwind for him. ... For me, I knew it was either Indianapolis or San Diego, and the last two weeks I had a pretty good feeling it was going to be Indianapolis.
DP: Did you take offense when people said it's going to be Manning or Ryan Leaf? Because I know we look back now and say, how could we possibly think Ryan Leaf ahead of Peyton Manning? But there were a lot of people, myself included, who thought Ryan Leaf had maybe a little more athleticism than you -- but you, coming from a football family, may be a better systems-type guy. So I made the same mistake three years ago.
PM: Well, I remember upside was the word that they kept using, you know, that he had more upside than I did -- and I guess I had a hard time understanding how I, being a 22-year-old quarterback coming into the NFL, didn't have any upside. I mean, I felt like I had a lot of growing to do, but sure, the competitive side of you naturally wants to say, hey, there's no comparison; I'm the better player. But my mindset was just to get drafted, to go to whatever team that wanted me and then just let it play itself out, to work hard and be a good football player. And I told Bill Polian and Jim Mora, hey, if you want me to come here, I want to come here. But if you don't, I'm going to beat your butt for 15 years playing in the AFC.
DP: Did you actually say that to them?
PM: I did say that and, of course, coach Mora, who is so competitive, says, well, we're not in the same division. And I said, well, I'll keep you out of the Super Bowl then. So I was prepared to come back. But it was an exciting time ... looking back on it, Bill Polian took me to the side afterwards and just said, hey, we want to be completely thorough in the research of this whole project. You were the guy we wanted for the longest time, but obviously we were just trying to be thorough. You know, I had no hard feelings whatsoever. I knew they wanted me, and obviously everything has worked out.

DP: What pressure is being put on Michael Vick to produce?
DP: The Falcons have a plan for him. As you can remember, Dan Reeves had a similar move to this 18 years ago with the John Elway trade from the old Baltimore Colts, and I think he knows how to bring along a young quarterback. ... Having Chris Chandler there, who is a true veteran, will certainly help Michael. ... But I definitely think you'll see him play more this year in Atlanta as compared to San Diego. And I think Michael has the right attitude right now about going in and working. He told me that was his plan, to go in and work hard. And that's what the Falcons want to see, a highly touted guy, the No. 1 pick, to come in and go to work -- not to talk about now good he is, but to prove to his players that he's going to work and pay the price.
DP: I don't know what it says about the position, Peyton, but the quarterbacks for last season's final four teams -- Rich Gannon, Daunte Culpepper, Trent Dilfer and Kerry Collins -- are not exactly the elite group of quarterbacks. Do you need to have a great, even good quarterback, to win it all?
PM: I think it's all about team still. And certainly the quarterback is going to have his hands on the ball every single play on offense and it certainly helps -- I mean, if you look at last year, Daunte and Rich had outstanding seasons, statistics-wise. Both starters in the Pro Bowl. Kerry had a good year. Trent was somewhat the exception, but I think Baltimore's defense was the exception as well. So yeah, I believe year-in, year-out, your quarterback needs to play well to get your team to a championship. In those games that he doesn't play well, then you hope your defense can bail you out. But obviously, everybody is looking at Baltimore right now and saying everybody's got to load up on defense. And I'm no different. In the draft this year, after Reggie Wayne, our first-round pick, we focused on defense.
DP: Did you watch the draft?
PM: I was in New York for the first round and I was just following along and doing some interviews, like you said, and really was prepared for our pick at No. 22 to be a defensive player. Then when we traded to the 30th pick, I was thinking defense. And I was sitting next to Chris Fowler, and right before [the Colts' pick was announced], Fowler whispered to me, it's Reggie Wayne. And I hadn't heard that name and so I was surprised by it ... but believe me, I'm excited about it. He came to Indianapolis [the day after the draft] and met all the coaches, and they said what a great guy he is, how he handled himself well. He's been a really productive player for Miami, the leading receiver of all-time, which says a lot at that school.

DP: When did you stop feeling stupid at QB? Because as a rookie, you're thrown in there, and rookies don't start at quarterback -- but you did. Was there a point where you said to your dad, you know what? I think I've finally got it.
PM: Yeah, it was about maybe the 12th week of the season ... it took me a while, there's no question. That first start against Miami, I found myself out there warming up and I said, you know, there's Dan Marino over there. I was 7 years old when Dan Marino was drafted, and I 'm starting against him. So even though I grew up around the NFL, I was still pretty wide-eyed coming in. But about the 12th week, I remember we had a game in Baltimore where I went in and we got beat, but I played well, I felt comfortable dropping back. I sort of knew who I was going to throw to before the ball was snapped and as the ball was in the air, I knew it was going to be complete. Before that, for those first 12 weeks, every play I was just hoping. I was saying ,please let Marvin be open on this play so I can just throw it to him and not have to read my second and third receivers. Because that's what's hard for a quarterback ... you're in a brand-new offense, you're playing against all kinds of different defenses, you're throwing to different receivers. It's just really hard and you have to play to gain experience and to be more comfortable. So for me it worked to play as a rookie. For Daunte Culpepper, certainly it worked for him to sit for a year and play in his second year.
DP: Did you remind Marino of the age difference? You didn't go up and say, Mr. Marino, I idolized you growing up.
PM: I didn't ask for any autographs before the game. I think my record against Dan was 1-3, but I'm pretty proud of the one win against one of the best quarterbacks of all time.

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