Tom Brady is facing Patrick Mahomes in Super Bowl LV on Sunday but he also will be sharing the weekend spotlight with the quarterback he is most closely associated with and compared to: Peyton Manning.
Manning figures to headline the Class of 2021 for the Pro Football Hall of Fame when the inductees are announced on Saturday night. For Brady, it will be a chance to see one of his contemporaries enshrined… even while he is still playing for more titles.
"Peyton was someone I always admired as a quarterback, as the leader of a team," Brady said on Wednesday. "I always looked up to Peyton because he was a little older than me and he was always doing things the right way."
That goes back to the first time they met. On Sept. 30, 2001, Brady made his first NFL start after having replaced the injured Drew Bledsoe the previous week against the Jets. He was facing the Colts and went out on the field early to try to introduce himself to Manning.
"I walked over and he said ‘What’s up, Tom?’ and it kind of blew me away that he knew who I was, which was pretty cool," Brady said.
Of course Peyton isn’t the only Manning who has a place in Brady’s history. While he played Peyton and the Colts more often, he faced Eli Manning in two Super Bowls. Brady lost both.
"We had a lot of great games," he said of facing Eli Manning. "Unfortunately we didn’t always do our best against that team. Played always a little bit better against the Colts than the Giants."
Brady and Peyton Manning, though, stand out as two of the best quarterbacks of all time who went head-to-head on a regular basis, often in games with implications for playoff seedings or championships on the line.
"When you went against a Peyton Manning-led team you were going against essentially the other best team in the league," Brady said.
They have a lot in common, too.
"His preparation reminds me so much of Peyton Manning," Bucs coach Bruce Arians said of Brady. "Those two guys just set the bar as far as preparation for guys I have coached."
Brady has a chance to match Manning on Sunday as the only quarterback to win a Super Bowl with two different teams. And one day when – if? – Brady retires, he’ll undoubtedly find a place in Canton alongside Manning.
"I’ve had a chance to know him for a long time, 20-plus years," Brady said. "Nothing surprises me about him and his accomplishments. He’s a tremendous player. We always keep in touch, he is always wishing me well, and I’m really happy for him."