On the field, quarterbacks Tom Brady and Peyton Manning have a history.
Off the field, they have a friendship.
“It’s really grown over the years,” Brady said in a conference call Wednesday. “We’ve known each other for a long time. We talk about a lot of things. We’ve seen each other off the field quite a few times over the years. He’s always really been someone I look up to and admire — certainly the way he plays the game, but also the way he handles himself off the field.”
Eleven years and four days ago, the two shook hands at Foxboro Stadium for the first time. It was during warmups prior to the first start of Brady’s career when he approached the Colts’ signal caller.
Much to the surprise of the first-time starter, Manning — already one of the league’s top passers in his fourth year — introduced himself.
“I went over there and he said, ‘Hey, I’m Peyton Manning,’” Brady recalled. “I was like ‘Of course. I know that.’”
That began a long, off-the-field friendship that is sometimes mistaken for an on-the-field rivalry — when in reality, it’s more like a mutual respect.
“Tom is a quarterback that’s been around the longest during my time,” Manning said. “He’s a great player. He works at it. I know how hard he works at it and I’ve always had an appreciation for guys that put that much time into it.”
Brady reciprocates the admiration.
“He’s really set the standard for quarterback play over my entire career,” Brady said.
Manning’s Colts fell to Brady’s Patriots 44-13 on the day they first met.
Six MVP trophies, four Super Bowl rings and 11 years later, the two will meet again in Foxborough this Sunday.
“He’s been a really good friend over the years,” Brady said. “We have a lot of things in common.”