Three Broncos legends will be enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame this weekend — quarterback Peyton Manning and safeties John Lynch and Steve Atwater. All three had undeniable impacts on their positions, their teammates and the Broncos organization, and all three will see their talent and hard work rewarded this weekend in Canton.
Years after Manning's retirement, he is still a regular presence at the Broncos facility, with both players and coaches frequently sharing his advice and recalling his work ethic.
"Peyton was the ultimate teammate, the ultimate leader," linebacker Von Miller said of his former teammate. "I molded my leadership and my career off of him. He was such an incredible teammate on and off the field, and it's a true blessing to look back on all the things we did together — we were able to go to two Super Bowls and win one, it's amazing."
In addition to his leadership on the field, Peyton also built lasting relationships with his teammates in Denver, some of whom will be in attendance when he puts on his gold jacket for the first time.
"I'm going," Miller said. "You can't miss that; it's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, so I'll go out there and hang with Peyton for a little bit."
When asked to describe his favorite memories with the former Broncos QB, Miller couldn't choose just one.
"All of them; I haven't forgotten anything," Miller said. "I just remember his first time coming to the Denver Broncos. It was just a crazy sense of urgency in OTAs, like everybody knew what type of team we had just by adding Peyton. He really changed that team and he really changed this organization as well."
Kicker Brandon McManus, Manning's only other former teammate still on the Broncos' roster, has great admiration for everything the legendary QB accomplished as a person and a player.
"[There's] not a better competitor," McManus said. "The guy knew how to win, he knew what it takes to win and he won, more than anybody."
Atwater, who is still a part of the Broncos staff, has had an impact on Broncos players past and present.
"Steve has meant so much to not only my personal life, but my career in general," safety Justin Simmons said. "He's done so much for just my football game, and the only reason I am where I am today is because of conversations with him that have helped me elevate it."
Simmons, who has modeled much of his game after Atwater, believes that being held to the standard that Atwater and other legendary Broncos defensive backs set for the safety position in Denver has elevated his own game to another level.
"When you're brought into something that, legacy-wise, has always had an impact on an organization, there's that standard that you want to make sure you match or elevate in any way that you can," Simmons said.
The current Broncos players finished with a congratulations to the future HOFers, who have helped to shape the Broncos organization into what it is today.
"Peyton, congratulations, man, it's incredible," Miller said to his former QB. "Way, way well-deserved. It's just cool to be a part of it, it's just cool to be a part of the memories. Congrats again to you and your family!"
"Congratulations, Peyton," McManus said. "It was an honor and a privilege to be a teammate of yours and we'll forever be teammates for life and Super Bowl champions. What a storied career you have, not just on the field but the relationships you've built, and I'm honored to call you a friend. Congratulations again to you and your family, it's well-deserved and you'll be immortalized for life!"
"This couldn't have happened to a better person," Simmons said to Atwater, "and I know everyone tells you, but you've inspired me both on and off the field, man, and I just can't thank you enough for what you've done and what you always will do. Congratulations on being inducted, your legacy is cemented!"