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Monday, October 29, 2012


Here is a great article written by Jeff Duncan of the Times-Picayune.  It speaks to the never ending role of a college coach that greatly cares about his players long after they are playing for him.  It also speaks of why Peyton Manning is such a great player -- because of his amazing commitment to be just that -- regardless of any and all adversities.

Duke was the perfect gridiron sanctuary for Manning to launch his comeback. In basketball-crazy Durham, N.C., he'd have the run of the training facilities while working in relative obscurity.

"I was in rehab state where I needed a quarterbacks coach," Peyton Manning said Wednesday, four days before his key Sunday night game against the New Orleans Saints. "I needed a weight room. I needed physical therapy. But a big part of rehab was on the field. There's only so much a physical therapist can know as far as quarterback work on the field. It's one of those deals where you kind of decided, 'Why don't I go back to somebody that knows me best.'"

Manning needed to start from scratch. He hadn't practiced or thrown a football since having a spinal fusion to repair a damaged nerve in his neck Sept. 8. It was Manning's third neck surgery in 19 months and the most risky and complicated of the three.

Manning made the first of a handful of trips to Duke in late December. With Manning's every move being monitored by a breathless media, David Cutcliffe kept his arrival under wraps. Manning stayed in the guest room of Cutcliffe's house and traveled to and from campus in a black Cadillac Escalade with tinted windows. Workouts were conducted in private at Duke's indoor facility and almost always at night. Cutcliffe was so intent on protecting Manning's privacy he didn't even tell his coaching staff the star quarterback was around.

"Our equipment people knew he was there," Cutcliffe said, "and that was it."

The work intensified when Manning returned after the holidays. Cutcliffe sent Manning through hour after hour of tedious drills, catching shotgun snaps, taking snaps from center, footwork and hand drills. Day by day, throw by throw, Manning gradually started to regain his form.

"It was unbelievable how quickly it happened," said Cooper Helfet, a Duke tight end who had just finished his senior season and jumped at the chance to work with Manning throughout his time in Durham. "In early January, some balls he didn't have the strength yet so he had to kind of float them in. By the end, he was slinging the ball, fitting it into windows like you see on TV. I couldn't imagine playing with a better quarterback."

The final exam came March 3. Cutcliffe ran Manning through the ultimate test: A play-by-play simulation of the Colts' 30-17 win against the New York Jets in the 2009 AFC championship game.

To authenticate the simulation, Manning flew in Colts teammates Jeff Saturday, Austin Collie and Dallas Clark, former Colts receiver Brandon Stokley and former Colts offense coordinator Tom Moore.

Using the play clock in Duke's indoor practice facility, Manning mimicked his 26-of-39, 377-yard, three-touchdown performance play by play, pass for pass, second by second.

As he'd done for the previous 13 seasons in Indianapolis, Saturday handled the center snaps. Collie and Clark played themselves. Depending on the play, Stokley was either Reggie Wayne or Pierre Garcon. Helfet was second tight end Jacob Tamme or H-back Gijon Robinson. Former Duke running back Jay Hollingsworth played running back Joseph Addai. Cutliffe charted the plays and called out the defenses.

"Our tempo and the amount of energy we expended was identical," Saturday said. "Everybody went down there knowing we were going to work. We knew he (Manning) was taking this very serious."

Manning called plays in huddle and made checks and hot reads at the line. When the script called for a run, they ran it. When it called for four wides out of the shotgun in no-huddle, they did likewise.

No detail was overlooked during the three-hour workout. Each play was run at full sped from the exact yard line and hash mark as the real game. The receivers ran the same route trees and Manning completed the passes to the same targets. When the script called for the Jets to be on offense, Manning and company retreated to the sideline and waited for the exact time of possession to expire on the play clock before retaking the field. They even scripted a 12-minute break for halftime. The only thing they didn't have were defenders.   "It was the exact replica of the game," Helfet said.

"It was pretty impressive," Stokley said. "It showed you exactly what kind of detail Peyton went to in trying to get back. Most people would never even think about doing something like that."

In addition to providing a prime evaluation tool of Manning's mechanics and fundamentals, Cutcliffe said the game was a crucial physical conditioning test. It'd been more than 14 months since Manning had played a real NFL game and this was the closest he could come to simulating a real experience.

"Afterward, he was sweaty and worn out, but he had a big ole smile on his face," Cutcliffe said of Manning.

The Duke video crew recorded the game from both sideline and end zone angles. Cutcliffe and Manning then evaluated the game film from the workout and compared it side by side with the 2009 game, gauging his footwork, the velocity and trajectory of his throws and the speed of his drop-back and release.

Read the entire article (it's excellent) -