FORT LAUDERDALE, FLA. — Colts quarterback Peyton Manning was giving one of what seemed like 19,000 Super Bowl interviews this week when he paused long enough to acknowledge an old friend from Minnesota.
"Hey, Joey," one of the greatest quarterbacks in NFL history said to Joey Browner, one of the best safeties in Vikings history and a member of the media the past 11 years.
Manning was 7 when he first met Browner. It was 1983 and Browner, a ridiculously big safety from Southern California, was the Vikings' first-round draft pick and the seventh overall selection. Manning's father, Archie, was a Vikings quarterback in his next-to-last NFL season.
"Peyton doesn't forget anything," Browner said. "When I walked up to him, he recognized me and comes up and gives me a hug afterward."
Manning's older brother, Cooper, was 9 in 1983. Little Eli, the Giants' current starting quarterback, was only 2. So it was mostly Peyton and Cooper who were regulars on the practice fields and in the locker room at Winter Park.
"I can still see Peyton dragging Archie's Vikings helmet around," Browner said. "Or he'd be out on the field, always tossing the ball. You'd toss him the ball, he'd throw it back. He would have done that for hours. To have that interaction with him and to now see him develop into one of the most prolific passers in the history of the National Football League is amazing. Archie and [his wife] Olivia did a great job."
Browner lives in Eagan and works for the Metropolitan Council as a member of its Central Corridor staff. He's also on the radio in Las Vegas and Hawaii, and on the Internet at KLAV 1230 AM from 5-6 CST, and on Saturday mornings on Fox Sports Radio 920 AM in Las Vegas.
He also wasn't hiding his bias when asked to predict whether the Colts or Saints will win Super Bowl XLIV on Sunday.
"Oh man, I grew up with Peyton around when his dad was with us," said Browner, who played 10 NFL seasons, nine of them with the Vikings, and was a six-time Pro Bowl selection and three-time first-team All-Pro choice.
"I used to tell Peyton, 'I'm one of your uncles.' You tried to be a good uncle to him. So Peyton is still family. I can't pick against family, so I'm going with the Colts. Plus, I do think they'll win."
Winter Park wasn't the only locker room and practice field Peyton grew up on, obviously. Archie played for the Saints from 1971 to '82 and the Houston Oilers from 1982 to '83.
Peyton also hung around Saints practice during his high school and college years when Archie was the team's radio analyst. Jim Mora, the coach of the Saints at the time, would sometimes ask Peyton to come off the sideline and take a snap or two when the Saints were conducting an informal offseason practice with the quarterbacks and receivers.
With the Colts playing Manning's hometown team this week, there are photos circulating of Manning wearing a Saints jersey. But it's a Bobby Scott jersey.
"Maybe all of the Archie jerseys were sold out at that time," Manning joked. "But certainly I have thought about some of my memories growing up, being around the New Orleans Saints."
Manning said his time spent in the locker room, learning from NFL players and snooping around for souvenirs that nobody would miss, was priceless.
"We were allowed to go into the locker room and the two guys that were kind of responsible for us were the equipment guys for the Saints, Dan 'Chief' Simmons and Silky Powell," Manning said. "They're still the equipment guys for the Saints to this day, in their first Super Bowl.
"Cooper and I used to run those guys wild. We used to be a pain in those guys' rears, I can guarantee you. They were always great to us, kind of looking out for us. It's special to be in this Super Bowl, but to have those two guys in the game as well is special, too."
Wait a minute. Did Peyton Manning, future Hall of Fame quarterback, really just tell the world how special it is that two equipment guys named Chief and Silky are in the Super Bowl? Man, this guy really does remember everybody.
Mark Craig • firstname.lastname@example.org