Manning, 39, and Brady, 38, faced each other 17 times during Manning’s 18-season NFL career. Brady walked away from 11 of those meetings the victor, but he still lamented losing the chance to compete against such a talented opponent.
“That part sucks,” Brady said. “That part really sucks. That part will always suck.”
According to ESPN’s Chris Mortensen, one of the first people Manning called to tell about his retirement was Brady.
Brady played his first NFL game in 2000, when Manning was already entrenched as the third-year quarterback for the Indianapolis Colts. Before he took his first professional snap, Brady was already looking to Manning as the standard for how to play his position.
“Every game he has played, I have watched,” Brady said. “I have file folders of his plays, of how he plays. It’d take years for me to watch it all again. But what he’s done in Denver has been incredible.
“What just happened, winning the Super Bowl in his last game, is a perfect way to end a career. But what he’s accomplished through all these years, what makes it so admirable, is the pressure he’s had on him his whole life. He was the highest-rated recruit in high school. He was the biggest quarterback in college football. He was the first pick in the draft. Who has lived up to the expectations year after year after year as well as Peyton? He’s done it so gracefully, so admirably. He set the standard for how to play the quarterback position.”
Brady has won four Super Bowls with the Patriots, while Manning owns just two championship rings. Still, Brady said his success has been aided by all he’s learned from watching Manning, and that he modeled his level of dedication to football after Manning’s example.
“I realized the level of commitment you must have to be great, watching him do it,” Brady said. “I know the time I put in, so I knew the time he had to have put in. It’s not 9 to 5. It’s a lifelong commitment. Football is a sport, it’s an art, it’s a religion. It’s all-encompassing. He mastered it.”