ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- An hour or so after he had told the world his pro football career was over -- as he started to wind down from an emotional, sometimes gut-wrenching, sometimes euphoric retirement event that was a combination of media conference and career celebration -- Peyton Manning was working through the long list of people he had tried to call or text in recent days.
John Elway and Gary Kubiak were the first calls, and so many more followed. There were his former head coaches, called in career chronological order, of course. There were former teammates. There were friends and family, some of whom are the most trusted in Manning's inner circle. There were his former playcallers, quarterback coaches, coaches he played against and his college coach at Tennessee, Phillip Fulmer. There were many players he had faced whom he wanted to hear the news from him first.
It's safe to say Manning's cell phone bill for the month of March could arrive in a box.
"I really tried to get as many people as I could," he said. " … You kind of want them to hear it from you. And I knew it was going to get out Sunday, so I tried to do as much as I could before then."
Among the most prominent on the list were New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick -- "We had a good conversation" -- and the guy Manning said was among the most important calls, Patriots quarterback Tom Brady.
Brady and Manning are the two greatest quarterbacks of this football generation and two of the best to ever grace an NFL roster. They are two of the biggest protagonists in some of the most polarizing who's-the-best discussions that can fill the phone lines in any month of the football year. They are kindred spirits in dealing with the fame, expectations, scrutiny, pressure and all-encompassing, always-on nature that comes with the job.
In his prepared remarks during his retirement ceremony, Manning went as far as to say that among the things he would miss about pro football is "that handshake with Tom Brady."
Manning said that the during his talk with Brady, the Patriots quarterback told Manning he had made it a point every Monday to watch Manning's game from the Sunday before. Brady has even seen the games Manning played in 1998 and 1999 -- the two seasons before Brady was a sixth-round pick by the Patriots. Brady watched with the quarterback-to-quarterback eye for detail and kept notes, even as he became a quarterback to study on the way to four Super Bowl wins.
Manning said Monday that he enjoyed talking to Brady about it all and he will miss facing Brady and Belichick, even though some of Manning's most difficult losses came at the hands of the Patriots, with Brady under center and Belichick on the sideline.
To that end, Manning's father, Archie, said Monday that beyond his son's two Super Bowl wins, record-setting moments and innumerable memorable moments on the field, the Indianapolis Colts' comeback win over the Patriots in the AFC Championship Game in January 2007 is "probably the one I'll always remember."
The Patriots led the game 21-3 at halftime, and the Colts didn't lead until one minute remained, but they won 38-34. Peyton Manning completed 27 of 47 passes for 347 yards and three touchdowns, while Brady went 21-of-34 for 232 yards with a touchdown and an interception.
"That's just the one, the way they were down and they came back, the feeling in that stadium and how the playoffs had gone for Peyton," Archie Manning said. " … I know he's always enjoyed the challenge of competing against [the Patriots]."
The Colts and Manning went on to win Super Bowl XLI over the Chicago Bears for Manning's first Super Bowl win.
"I've just always enjoyed being part of the fraternity of quarterbacks … and facing Tom and coach Belichick," Manning said. "I wanted to call them, to hear it from me and let them know I appreciated all of those battles."