Nobody will benefit more from Denver's signing of quarterback Peyton Manning than former Gophers quarterback Adam Weber, who is the only other quarterback on the roster.
The Broncos traded 2010 first-round pick Tim Tebow to the New York Jets on Wednesday and already had lost free-agent quarterback Brady Quinn, who signed with the Kansas City Chiefs on Monday.
"I think it's a great opportunity to learn from one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time," said Weber, who went undrafted but signed with the Broncos last season. "Last year I was on the practice squad, but you're still a part of the team. It was fun because we were going along with Tim Tebow and all the stuff that was going on with that team. It was a blast going to the playoffs and beating the Steelers, a great experience that I'll cherish for the rest of my life."
Weber said he is really looking forward to this year.
"[I'll] be able to compete for a position on the team, hopefully get on that 53-man roster, and learn from one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time."
Manning signed a five-year, $96 million contract with the Broncos, but he will turn 36 on Saturday and is coming off several neck surgeries. If Weber maintains his second-team position, he could end up playing if Manning got hurt again.
"How I'm looking at it as I think every single minute I can spend with him and pick his brain and just kind of feel out how he goes about his business, that will help me just become a better quarterback," Weber said. "... I signed a futures contract, so I'm not that sure that they won't put me on the practice squad for [organized team activities]. I'm looking forward to getting the reps in and showing these coaches that I'm a good fit for this team."
Even though he didn't play last year, Weber called being with an NFL team a great experience.
"It's been different than college but it's still football," he said. "I've learned a lot and I think I have matured and developed. Yeah, it was a very fun season."
Weber said fans are excited about Manning coming to Denver, but there are still conflicted feelings after Tebow led the team on such an exciting run to the playoffs last season.
"I also know that it's bittersweet because the fans and the team, everyone responded to Tim Tebow, that's tough," Weber said. "But bringing in one of the greatest of all time at quarterback, an NFL MVP, I think guys are excited and they look forward to the chance and opportunity to play with an all-time great."
Help for Decker, too
While excited about the addition of Manning for himself as a receiver, Eric Decker was happy for his former Gophers teammate as well.
"He's the only other [quarterback] on the roster, so I'd say it's a big break for him," said Decker, who had a big year for the Broncos until he got hurt in their first-round playoff victory over Pittsburgh. Decker had 44 receptions for 612 yards and eight touchdowns.
"I think Manning in general is a good mentor for him just to see how he watches film, see how he practices and learn some good habits from him and also compete for that backup spot."
Decker also recognized the conflicting emotions in losing Tebow.
"Tim was a great guy," Decker said. "I've got a lot of respect for him. He's definitely a fierce competitor, a winner, obviously he's going to have success in New York and wherever he may be."
Decker is excited to work with Manning.
"I think it's a blessing to catch a ball from such an elite quarterback," Decker said. "He's going to be known as one of the best to play. To catch footballs from him, to work with him is going to be amazing.
"I just think with his experience and how long he's been around, he just knows how to read defenses so much clearer just because he has that experience. Him throwing the ball, he's on a whole other level than a lot of quarterbacks in this league."
Decker said he and his girlfriend, country singer Jessie James, will be taking a vacation in Australia soon.
• The Gophers basketball team advanced to the NCAA Final Four 15 years ago today by beating UCLA 80-72 for the Midwest Region title in front of 31,930 at the Alamodome in San Antonio. There were at least 15,000 Minnesota fans in attendance and they took over the town. The Gophers did lose their first game in the Final Four, 78-69 to Kentucky in Indianapolis, and later had the Final Four appearance and the Big Ten title stripped because of NCAA violations.
• A new all-video scoreboard with HD quality costing about $2.5 million will be installed in Williams Arena before the 2012-2013 basketball season. ... Future Gopher Wally Ellenson of Rice Lake, Wis., won the online voting contest to be selected for the American Family Insurance slam dunk contest that will be televised on CBS over Final Four weekend.
• The Gophers track team has signed Emmanuel Onyia of Jamaica, one of the top junior shot putters in the world, after watching his great performances on the Internet. Onyia's throw of 65-5 at the Penn Relays last year was good for second place to Nicholas Vena. ... Defending Class 2A shot put champion Thomas Anderson of Andover, who has reached 65-4 1/2, has signed with Arizona State.
• Gophers track and cross-country coach Steve Plasencia, was named junior and senior men's coach by USA Track and Field at the North American, Central American and Caribbean Cross-Country Championships in Port of Spain, Trinidad. He took both teams to first place in the event last Saturday.
• Gophers assistant track coach Paul Thornton recently was named Midwest Region assistant coach of the year.
• Trent Lockett, the former Hopkins star, has asked for a release from his basketball scholarship at Arizona State so he can hopefully play closer to home after his mother was diagnosed with cancer. Lockett had a great season for the Sun Devils, averaging 13 points, 5.8 rebounds, 2.2 assists and 1.5 steals per game.
Sid Hartman can be heard weekdays on WCCO AM-830 at 6:40, 7:40 and 8:40 a.m. and on Sundays at 9:30 a.m. • firstname.lastname@example.org