Click here for a photo gallery from the visit.
CAMP LEATHERNECK, Afghanistan -- Staff Sgt. Michael Priebe is a die-hard Denver Broncos fan and even though the Broncos didn't pick up quarterback Peyton Manning, a four-time National Football League Most Valuable Player, until the 2012 season began, Priebe always admired Manning's love for the game.
Following Manning's first season with the Broncos, Priebe, a radio chief with Regimental Combat Team 7, got to meet the star quarterback when Manning and other athletes and celebrities visited troops at Camp Leatherneck, Afghanistan, March 1.
The visit was part of the Spring Troop Visit sponsored by the USO. The stop at Camp Leatherneck was one of many stops across the world to thank service members for their service.
The list of celebrities also included NFL wide receiver Austin Collie, retired Major League Baseball pitcher and three-time World Series winning Curt Schilling, Tampa Bay Buccaneers' wide receiver Vincent Jackson, Colts' quarterbacks coach Clyde Christensen; American Idol's season three third runner-up Diana Degarmo and season five finalist Ace Young and Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders Jackie Bob and Cassie Trammell.
Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. James A. Winnefeld, Jr., and his wife, Mary, served as the military hosts for the tour.
During Adm. Winnefeld's opening remarks, he thanked troops for their hard work and dedicated service.
"Everyone is watching what you're doing out here and you are doing a remarkable job," he said.
The two-hour stop began with American Idol singers Degarmo and Young performing on stage, followed by introductions of all those visiting.
Then, Manning and Collie, who Manning use to throw to during his days with the Colts, got on stage showcasing how quarterbacks and receivers "connect" with each other on the gridiron. Manning called out two Marines and a soldier to practice the exercise and catch his passes.
Lance Cpl. Terrill M. Clark, a Brookshire, Texas, native and an administrative clerk with RCT-7, was shocked when his name was called. He said he had butterflies walking up to the stage.
"I was nervous, I won't lie," said Clark.
"Knees, knees," Manning yelled to Clark, signaling get ready to turn around for the pass.
"Football," Manning said. As Clark turned around, the football flew past his head.
Talking to the troops, Manning said he "missed" his target and gave Clark one more chance. This time, Clark juggled the ball, but eventually pulled it in.
"I was a little embarrassed when I dropped the ball," said Clark, "but who can say they caught a ball from Peyton Manning?"
After the drill, Manning called Maj. Gen W. Lee Miller, the Regional Command Southwest commander, on stage to present an autographed football on behalf of the NFL.
"I want you to have this football to remind you guys we are thinking about you and praying for y'all to return safely," Manning said.
The Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders walked on stage to a loud roar from the troops and danced while Degarmo and Young sang AC/DC's "You shook me all night long." The cheerleaders garnered high praise from the troops, as they drew the loudest applause of the afternoon. The Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders' visit marked the organization's 76th time visiting troops in conjunction with the USO.
"This is my third time coming out here to visit the troops and I love every minute of it," said Jackie Bob. "Service members give up so much for us to ensure we are able to enjoy the freedoms we enjoy back home."
Jackson and Schilling are no strangers to the military. Jackson's father served 21 years and Schilling's father served 20, both in the Army.
"We can't thank you all enough," said Schilling, "there aren't enough words to describe what you're doing for us back home."
Jackson knew what it was like growing up in a military household, moving from base to base, and he said he appreciates the those who, "put their lives on the line to bring stability in this world and admires the families who take care of the household while their loved one is gone."
Jackson said when he signed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, he was aware of the military community that surrounded the city. He created the Jackson in Action 83 foundation, which helps service members stay connected with their children during deployments and raises community awareness of the relational issues existing between deployed service members and their children.
The celebrities gathered on stage one last time to sing "God Bless America," and then made it a point to sign every autograph and take every picture they could before boarding the buses to leave for their next stop on the tour.
After the day's festivities, Priebe's big day was complete. He described Manning being only feet away as surreal and said he was able to "see the human side of him."
"I was stoked when I found out (Peyton Manning) was coming out," he said. "I've been watching him since his days at Tennessee and throughout his NFL career. I love the way he plays the game."