ENGLEWOOD, Colo. --This was all new to Peyton Manning.
After 14 seasons with the Indianapolis Colts, he was released on March 7. Hours after a press conference alongside Colts Owner Jim Irsay announcing the move, Manning was officially a free agent.
"It hit me fast," Manning said.
By Friday, March 9, Manning was already at Dove Valley for his first visit to a team other than the Colts.
There, he met with Broncos Executive Vice President of Football Operations John Elway, Owner/CEO Pat Bowlen, Head Coach John Fox, Offensive Coordinator Mike McCoy and Quarterback Coach Adam Gase, among others, getting a feel for what Denver had to offer.
"Sitting down with Coach McCoy, Coach Gase and Coach Fox talking football and talking offensive philosophy, those are the things I really wanted to get comfortable with," Manning said. "I knew these guys knew what they were doing and were committed to winning and that was very important to me."
Still, having been in Indianapolis his entire career, Manning said he felt strange standing in a different locker room. Elway picked up on that.
"I think John could sense what I was feeling having been in one facility his entire career," Manning said. "So, he could relate, and I think he knew it was going to take some time for me to get through the process and get to know people, to talk some football with people and get a feel for the environment and the atmosphere."
"I told Peyton, 'Take your time,'" Elway said, putting himself in Manning's shoes. "As an organization, we didn't want to pressure him in any way. We wanted to be there to answer any questions and keep the lines of communication open, but didn't want to be in his lap the whole time because he was going through a tough time and a lot of work.
"You could tell it was really weighing on him."
From there, Manning visited with the Tennessee Titans and San Francisco 49ers. Last Friday, Elway and a Broncos contingent flew to Durham, N.C., where they met with Manning yet again, and watched the quarterback throw approximately 60 passes.
At the time, Elway called it a "productive" meeting.
Four days later, Manning was officially a Bronco. The roller-coaster ride was over.
"I had my first visit here. I felt very comfortable here," Manning said. "I felt the Broncos were just a great fit. I always have had a great deal of respect for John Elway. He's one of the best quarterbacks to ever play and his knowledge and respect for the game is evident in everything he does. Talking football with John and with Coach Fox and his staff helped me realize that this is a great place to be."
Elway said the team tried not to give Manning a "hard sell" on Denver, but rather show him the winning culture within the building and the enthusiasm of the fanbase to demonstrate why Denver was the place for him.
Fox said Bowlen even took a red-eye flight from Hawaii to meet with Manning, which "said a lot about the commitment that we have from ownership."
In the end, the Broncos were patient, and it paid off.
"I just had a really good feel here," Manning said. "I'm proud to still be in the AFC. I'm proud to be a Denver Bronco."
"I can tell that Denver is committed to winning and I'm glad they wanted me to be a part of that."