ENGLEWOOD, Colo. --Todd Helton's sweet swing, stellar glove and steady production were staples of Denver sports for 17 years – and now the Broncos will honor the recently retired Rockies first baseman who spent his entire career playing in the Mile High City.
Helton, who retired from the Rockies last month, will serve as an honorary captain for the Broncos' showdown with the Jaguars on Sunday. He will join other Broncos captains, including his former University of Tennessee football teammate and good friend Peyton Manning, on the field for the pregame toss.
A career .316 hitter who totaled 2,159 hits and slugged 369 home runs for the Rockies, Helton will also be honored with a pregame tribute video on the scoreboard before kickoff.
It's a fitting salute for a player who was been a fixture in the Mile High City longer than any other professional athlete – Helton's 17-year career with the Rockies represents the longest tenure by a player in Colorado sports history, one year longer than John Elway's 16 seasons with the Broncos.
"I know a lot of baseball guys and I've been in enough baseball locker rooms, and I now that Todd Helton has the respect of all of his opponents and peers," Manning said in September. "That's a credit to him for how he's played the game."
Helton retired as the Rockies' statistical leader in nearly every offensive category – and Manning remarked that Helton's sustained level of excellence over the years made his career particularly special.
"He's played hurt. He's been a tough player, a consistent player," Manning said. "To do it for that long, like I said, I think sometimes when you just write 17-year career, it doesn't do it justice. You ought to put it in bold, caps and write it about 50 times just to realize how much work he put in."
In addition to his baseball career, Helton played quarterback at Tennessee at the same time Manning arrived at the program, and Manning credited Helton with helping him feel at home – something that sparked a friendship that has lasted through the years, long after Helton was selected by the Rockies with the eighth overall pick in the 1995 June Draft.
"As a friend, he was nice to me as an 18-year old, homesick freshman up there in Knoxville," Manning recalled. "Todd was a big star when I got there already, a Knoxville legend, and so he took time to be nice to me. I appreciated that. He's been a good friend my entire time we've known each other, almost 20 years."