FOXBOROUGH -- Tom Brady took a trip down memory lane on Wednesday, reflecting on his first career start. It was Sept. 30, 2001 and Brady smiled as he told the story of walking onto the Foxboro Stadium field for pregame warm-ups against the Colts.
"Peyton came over and said 'Hey, I'm Peyton Manning.' I said 'No [expletive]!'"
At the time, it was a reminder to Brady of how far he had come, from the 199th overall selection in the 2000 NFL draft to sharing the same field with the top overall pick from 1998.
What he didn't realize, and few could have imagined, was that the two would share the next decade as the dominant quarterbacks in the NFL, linked together in the similar way that NBA stars Larry Bird and Magic Johnson were during the 1980s as the Celtics and Lakers clashed.
Brady appreciates the connection they've shared over the past 10 years; one they'll revisit Sunday when the Patriots visit the Colts at Lucas Oil Stadium.
"Yeah, and I'm always keeping up on Peyton, and we talk from time to time," he said. "I have a lot of respect for him as a player and for the role model that he is and for the way he carries himself, the way he leads his team and the way he is a representative for the league."
The feeling is mutual, even though Manning playfully chided a reporter Wednesday when he was asked about his link with Brady, and how it started that day in the old stadium with metal bleachers.
"I try to forget that game, thanks for bringing it up, really appreciate that," Manning said because of the final result, a 44-13 Patriots win. "I was just out there throwing before the game, like I usually do, sometimes you get out there early trying to get a feel for the turf. I remember Tom being out there, I'm sure I was talking to [Drew] Bledsoe as well, and it was the first time I had met him. He's been doing unbelievable things since.
"What Tom has done in this decade, it's hard to do it justice [in a short time]," Manning said. "He's been unbelievably consistent and seems to get better year after year. He's had some offensive coordinator changes and different guys to throw to, yet he's remained unbelievably consistent and accurate throughout. That's a great credit to him."
The off-field relationship between Brady and Manning has been well documented, with one of the most recent chapters coming as Brady rehabilitated from his knee injury.
Manning had been genuinely devastated at the injury, then helped Brady when he called about his post-surgical infection. Manning himself had been dealing with an infection, so there were some similarities. Brady said he appreciated Manning's insight and upbeat approach.
Otherwise, most of the time they spend talking is about football, as both are junkies.
"We talk about games, strategy, players, talk about how he prepares, I prepare, and the teams we play, so it kind of runs the gamut," Brady said. "He has great knowledge of the game. He studies it, understands it and understands what he does well and what his team does well."
Manning added that it's "fun to talk football with a guy like Tom, because his knowledge is so impressive."
They'll connect again Sunday, as the game will mark the 11th meeting between them -- from that first meeting at Foxboro Stadium, to the RCA Dome, to Gillette Stadium, and now Lucas Oil Stadium.
Forever linked in their greatness, it's time for another chapter to be written.