ENGLEWOOD, Colo. --Bill Polian brought Peyton Manning into the NFL by making him the first pick in the 1998 NFL Draft.
Seventeen years later, Manning will be there when Polian enters the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Manning will fly to Canton, Ohio, after Saturday morning's training-camp practice to support the former Colts team president as he joins the game's immortals. He will return in time for Sunday's practice.
In his 18th NFL season, Manning will be making his first trip to visit the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Polian's induction as a contributor is not solely based upon his selection of Manning and the success the Indianapolis Colts had in their 14 seasons together. Polian built the Buffalo Bills teams that were the only ones to make four consecutive Super Bowl appearances -- although he was not on the staff for their 1993 run -- and took the Carolina Panthers from expansion to 12-4 and an NFC Championship Game appearance in just two seasons.
"Bill had such great experience and great knowledge," Manning said. "Being an old coach and being an old scout, he had a great way of evaluating players and understanding how to put the right kinds of players together in order to form a good football team. He was an extremely hard worker. I can't remember a Colts practice that we had that Bill wasn't out there watching his players, seeing how players were practicing and always thinking about what he could do to make the team better."
Polian's moves helped sustain the Colts for a run that included 11 playoff appearances in 12 years from 1999-2010, including nine in a row from 2002-10. Together, Polian and Manning helped guide the Colts to one world championship, two Super Bowl appearances and eight division titles.
In 24 seasons as a general manager or team president, Polian's teams racked up 17 playoff appearances. And as Manning notes, he was always around and involved with the day-to-day details of the team.
"As I like to say, Bill wasn't playing on the field on Sunday, but it felt like he was out there with us," Manning said. "He was always walking through the stretch lines and shaking everybody's hands right before kickoff and before he headed to the press box to watch the game. He was the first one you saw after a win or after a loss to shake your hand or put his arm around you. He was right in there with you, and that meant a lot to the players I think. He had his sleeves rolled up and was ready to compete with you every single Sunday.
"He was a loyal guy. He loved his players. He was a tough guy and just a guy that you enjoyed competing with, playing hard for and trying to win for as a player. With that said, he did that everywhere he went: Buffalo, Carolina and Indianapolis. That's why he's going into the Hall of Fame. I just couldn't be happier for him."