Broncos cornerback Champ Bailey has made a living intercepting NFL quarterbacks.
Since his rookie season in 1999, he has tallied 50 interceptions, but one quarterback in particular has eluded him — new teammate Peyton Manning. Well, at least since their college days as SEC rivals.
Though it happened more than a decade ago, Bailey is still proud of a moment most defenders only dream of — snaring a pass thrown by Manning.
“I think he tried to throw the ball away, and I went up and got it,” Bailey smiled. “I don’t think he ever expected me to go that high to get it.”
Manning recalls that day as well.
“I remember how talented he was, and you just knew he was going to be a good player,” Manning said of Bailey as a true freshman for the Bulldogs. “Champ has never intercepted me in the NFL, but I don’t think I’ve ever thrown a touchdown on him either, so it’s a pretty good battle. He got me in college one time on an interception, so I’m glad we’re on the same team.”
The competition pitting Bailey and the rest of the secondary against Manning, a former Tennessee Volunteer, is still alive and well. The good news for Broncos fans is that with both players on the same team, everybody wins.
“(It’s a) great challenge going against our defense,” Manning said. “We’re going to win some battles, they’re going to win some battles, but it’s making the Broncos better, and I know it’s really good for our receivers and for our timing.”
Manning said he has enjoyed joining forces with a player who has been challenging him for more than a decade.
“He’s the best corner I’ve played against in my career, and he’s been unbelievably consistent,” Manning said. “You always knew where Champ was. If you couldn’t set your feet into it, it wasn’t worth throwing. If you threw behind him, he was going to make you pay.”
Manning has been impressed with what he’s seen from Bailey so far during training camp, pointing specifically at the 11-time Pro Bowler’s work ethic and influence on his younger teammates.
And he’s still making plays that put him, in Manning’s opinion, in elite company.
“He’s got some of those rare skills that those special corners have,” Manning said. “Deion (Sanders), Rod Woodson, they have ‘it’ when it comes to being a cover corner, but his work ethic is what keeps him at the top every year.”
“I’m glad to be on his team.”