On April 18, 1998, the Colts selected Peyton Manning with the No. 1 overall pick. On the 23rd anniversary of his draft day, the soon-to-be Hall of Fame quarterback offered insight to a quarterback who is about to begin his own NFL journey.
Manning recently spent time with former Florida quarterback Kyle Trask on ESPN's new "QB1" series. Trask, the seventh-ranked quarterback and 82nd ranked player in CBS Sports' prospect rankings, asked Manning how long it took him to get acclimated to the speed of the NFL game.
"If I could go back and do my rookie year all over again, I think there's a fine line, Kyle, between respect the game and the speed of it but not over-respecting it where you're hesitant and you think, 'Oh, I can't make that throw. That's an NFL defensive back. There's no way I can throw that.' I think I probably did a little bit of too much of that, and maybe over-respected it and I just didn't play well," Manning said, via 247 Sports. "But give it the respect that it does deserve, right? These NFL defensive backs, they can cover. The windows are tighter. There are certain throws that you just can't make and you've got to throw it away. That was my hardest thing.
"But just like you, I just kept working, kept persevering, trying to learn just how fast the game was, try to get more comfortable and certainly that game's going to slow down and you're going to get in that comfort zone. So just kind of be prepared for anything is what I would tell you. Keep working. Keep trying to learn. But coming out of Florida, coming out of a great program, playing in the Southeastern Conference — that's going to pay a lot of dividends for you, I think, and just wish you the best of luck, pal."
It's unknown whether or not Trask will be thrown into the fire as Manning was during his rookie season, but Trask isn't expected to be taken in the first round. One team that has surely done their homework on Trask is the Broncos, who are looking to strengthen their quarterback room given the erratic play of Drew Lock during Lock's first two years in Denver. And the Patriots, while they appear to be committed to Cam Newton for the '21 season, are another team that could be in the running to land Trask, who threw 68 touchdowns and just 15 interceptions during his final two seasons at Florida.
If he gets a chance to play as a rookie, Manning would "pull" for Trask to break his still-standing rookie record.
"Threw 28 interceptions my rookie year," Manning told Trask. "That's still an NFL rookie record. If you want to break that, Kyle, that's fine with me."
As Manning alluded to earlier, he too starred in the SEC before entering the NFL. Manning broke numerous conference and school records during his time in Knoxville. His sensational 1997 season earned him runner-up status for the Heisman Trophy, behind future NFL Hall of Fame cornerback Charles Woodson. Manning was selected ahead of Woodson and fellow Heisman finalists Randy Moss and Ryan Leaf in the '98 draft.
Manning endured an up-and-down rookie season. Playing on a team that was in the process of rebuilding, Manning worked extensively with Bruce Arians, his first quarterbacks coach in the NFL. Manning has previously shared a story about his "a-ha" NFL moment that occurred during an early practice with Arians. After hesitating to throw a pass in practice, Manning explained to Arians that the window to throw was "this small" while making a gesture with two of his fingers.
"FYI, that's open in the NFL," Arians replied.
With Arians' help, Manning quickly developed into one of the NFL's best quarterbacks. While Arians wrote in his book that Manning would sometimes suffer from "paralysis from analysis," Manning eventually gained confidence with his footwork, film study, and mastery of the Colts' playbook. With Arians giving him the luxury to audible out of plays at the line of scrimmage, the Colts went from 3-13 in Manning's first season to 13-3 in his second.
In 2000, their final season working together, Manning led the league in completions, passing yards and touchdown passes, putting in motion what was to come over the next 15 years. The league's only five-time MVP, Manning retired as the NFL's all-time leading passer. He is also the only starting quarterback to lead two different franchises to Super Bowl wins.