SANTA CLARA, Calif. —As Gary Kubiak has said about this season, getting to this point at Super Bowl 50 has taken everyone. Similarly, at an individual level, Peyton Manning has similar thoughts about his own 18-year path to this spot in Santa Clara and he's reached out to all of his head coaches from high school through his professional years leading up to this week.
"I talked to [former University of Tennessee] Coach [Phillip] Fulmer this week, my college coach, and I talked to my high school coach in New Orleans, Tony Reginelli," Manning said. "When you do play in a game like this, it's hard not to think of the coaches that have had an impact on you and helped you get to this position. I talked to Jim Caldwell, Tony Dungy, Jim Mora, John Fox and so I'm grateful and thankful for all the coaches I've played for. I wouldn't be in this position had I not learned something from all of the different coaches that I've had."
Through the years, Manning has faced the usual changes involved in professional sports, from ever-shifting rosters to new coaching staffs and new schemes, and what he's learned from each situation has made him the player that he is now.
"I think [finding a competitive edge through studying] has been pretty consistent throughout my career," Manning began, "but I think you have to be able to adjust based on who you're playing with, based on the head coach that you're playing for, the system that you're in, and like I shared yesterday, I've played for 18 years, played for five different head coaches, played in a couple systems with a lot of different players."
But with 18 years under his belt, it's become a little weird for Manning to see those former teammates or opponents on the sidelines after finishing their playing careers.
"It's not good when all of your ex-players are all broadcasting or coaching now," Manning joked. "I don't think that's a good thing for me. I've played the Raiders, played the Steelers and I was like I played against all their coaches over there."
The Broncos didn't practice on their day off on Tuesday, but they still managed to have a little fun with the media. (photos by Eric Bakke)
Most notably, that would be Raiders assistant defensive backs coach and Hall of Fame safety Rod Woodson and Steelers outside linebackers coach Joey Porter, though each team has other coaches who at one time shared a field with Manning when they were a player.
Anyway, that just adds to the perspective of this season for Manning. Here he is in his 18th year having outperformed and outlasted his contemporaries to reach his fourth Super Bowl, having done so with a different coach in each one. With each coach, he learned something different that helped him become the most productive quarterback of all time. Now his path has taken a few more turns as he's adapted to a new offense and with it, Manning and the Broncos are one win away from completing that path succesfully with a Lombardi Trophy.