Peyton Manning was briefly Todd Helton's backup QB at Tennessee
For a very brief time in 1994, former Rockies star Todd Helton was the starting quarterback at Tennessee. His backup? Peyton Manning.
Over the weekend, quarterback Peyton Manning informed the Denver Broncos he is indeed retiring after leading the team to a win in Super Bowl 50. A press conference is set for Monday. Eye on Football has all the Manning coverage you need.
Manning was not much of a baseball prospect growing up -- he was never drafted by an MLB team -- but he did play in high school. Here's what he told Patrick Saunders of the Denver Post about his prep baseball career a few years back:
"I love baseball. I grew up playing baseball. I love everything about baseball. It’s such a different mentality than football. So many more games and a different atmosphere. I’ve always been a fan of it, and having the connection and friendship I have with Todd has made it very special for me. I always check the Rockies’ boxscores to see how Todd is doing.”
"I played shortstop. I wasn’t good enough to stick with it. I love paying. I probably outgrew the position about my senior year. But I love the bus rides. I love the camaraderie. All my receivers played baseball with me. In the summer, we’d go out and play baseball in a summer league, we come back from a game and keep our spikes on and go out and throw. I always kept a football in my bag.”
Although Peyton never played baseball above the high school level, he did, very early in his college career, serve as the backup quarterback behind a former MLB star. In 1994, his freshman year at Tennessee, Manning was third on the Vols depth chart behind Jerry Colquitt and Todd Helton. Yes, that Todd Helton.
Colquitt injured his knee in Tennessee's first game of the season, pushing Helton into the starting QB role. He started the next three games before suffering a knee injury of his own in a loss to Mississippi State. Helton's injury was not too serious -- he recovered in time to hit .407/.520/.775 with 20 homers, 61 walks, and 24 strikeouts in 69 games for the baseball team the following spring -- and he was drafted eighth overall by the Rockies in 1995.
The injury did, however, create an opening for Manning. He started his freshman year as No. 3 on the QB depth chart, took over as the starter by the team's fifth game thanks to the Colquitt and Helton injuries, and the rest, as they say, is history. Helton never started another football game for Tennessee and Manning became arguably the best QB in football history.
Manning and Helton have remained close friends over the years. In fact, during the NFL lockout in 2012, the Rockies invited Manning to work out with the team. They even gave him a locker at Coors Field. Here is Peyton talking to reporters back in 2012 about his friendship with Helton (and R.A. Dickey!) and his short-lived baseball career in general.
Helton finished his college football career 41-for-74 (54.7 percent) for 484 yards with four touchdowns and three interceptions in 12 games. Manning? Well, Manning basically rewrote the Tennessee record books. The football thing worked out well for him.
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