Renton He stood head and shoulders above the competition as a tall, lanky high school kid, and has proven over time he can do the same thing on a much bigger stage.
But back then, Seattle Seahawks coach Jim Mora got a first-hand look at the special talents of Indianapolis Colts quarterback Peyton Manning.
While a senior at Isidore Newman High in New Orleans, Manning regularly participated in 7-on-7 workouts at the New Orleans Saints practice facility
Mora was the secondary coach with the Saints at the time. His father, Jim E. Mora, was the head coach for New Orleans and good friends with Peyton Mannings father, former Saints quarterback Archie Manning.
The younger Mora said Peyton Manning would run the drills alongside New Orleans starting quarterback Jim Everett. And even then, according to Mora, the 17-year-old Manning was the best quarterback on the field.
Mora also watched Manning play high school games on Friday nights, where the talented quarterback was virtually unstoppable.
You know that cliché, Hes like a man among boys? It was just that way, Mora said. I mean, he was just big, he was fast, he was smarter, he had a whip for an arm and he made great decisions.
It was a joke watching him play against these guys. The funny thing is he still looks that way today, even though hes playing against this elite competition, he still just stands out in everything he does.
Hes almost impossible to fool. He very rarely makes a poor decision. He manages the game like no ones ever managed a game before. Hes tough. Hes competitive. Hes smart. I dont know if theres a flaw.
Mora and the Seahawks will have their hands full attempting to slow down the Colts high-powered offense led by Maning, one of the best quarterbacks ever to play the game.
The Colts lead the league in passing offense and are fourth in total offense. Indianapolis has finished in the top five in passing offense every year since 1999, a year before Mannings rookie season.
With the steady hand of head coach Tony Dungy at the wheel, the Colts and Manning won a Super Bowl in 2006. And Indianapolis has six straight playoff appearances dating back to 2002.
For his career, Manning, now 33 and in his 12th NFL season, has set the bar high for elite quarterbacks both in terms of statistics and heady play on the field.
Hes sixth all-time in passing yards (45,611), fourth in passes completed (3,905), fourth in passing touchdowns (340) and second behind Steve Young in career passer rating (95.1).
He has brought his team from behind time and again, with 37 game-winning drives in the fourth quarter or overtime. Hes a nine-time Pro Bowl selection and has won three NFL Most Valuable Player awards.
And at a solid 6-foot-5, 230 pounds, Manning is durable. He has started 179 consecutive games since his rookie season, second only to Brett Favre (272).
But more than anything, Manning uses his mind to put his offense in position to win games at times waving his hands like a madman at the line of scrimmage to audible into just the right play call to dissect an opponents defense.
First-year Colts head coach James Caldwell, now in his seventh season with the organization, says Mannings work ethic, along with his time and preparation off the field, help make things easier for him once hes on it.
Hes gifted, Caldwell said. God blessed him with all the physical tools that you need to be an outstanding player in this league. Hes mentally gifted as well. Hes very, very bright, and he has great work habits. Often times, you dont find that combination.
And hes one of those guys who every single day he goes out and hes trying to find a way to get better and thats not an exaggeration. All you have to do is watch him practice and youll see what were talking about. And thats the way hes lived his life.
And the crazy hand gestures during the game at the line of scrimmage are those real calls or decoys?
Its kind of like a third base coach, Caldwell said. Its a little bit of both. Its just depends on the situation.
Seahawks safety Lawyer Milloy has faced Manning several times during his 14-year playing career with New England and Atlanta.
Basically, its a game where defensively we have to play as a unit, we have to be patient and we have to be very disciplined, he said. And thats for four quarters.
So no matter if hes having an outstanding game, or if hes having a bad game for four quarters, hes the type of guy that can make adjustments on the fly and that can hit you the minute that youre not disciplined. So weve got a lot on our plate.
Mora understands that things could be tough for his team defensively, particularly with a secondary that has injuries to cornerbacks Marcus Trufant (back), Ken Lucas (groin), Josh Wilson (ankle) and Jordan Babineaux (neck).
Lucas and Babineaux are expected to play this week, and Wilson may as well, and Mora knows it will take a healthy secondary and then some to contain Manning. But hes not conceding anything.
We go play our tails off and we try to make plays on the football, Mora said. We try to stop the run so we can try to harass the quarterback.
Its a formidable challenge, but well be ready for it.
Eric D. Williams: 253-597-8437