DENVER, CO - AUGUST 5: Quarterback Peyton Manning #18 of the Denver Broncos takes in a game between the San Francisco Giants and Colorado Rockies alongside James Kellogg, Vice President of Community & Retail Operations at Coors Field on August 5, 2012 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images)
KUSA - A couple of Tenneessee kids in Colorado, Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning said Thursday he will be at Coors Field on Wednesday for Todd Helton's last home game.
Helton, who announced over the weekend he would retire as the Rockies' first baseman after this season, was a University of Tennessee quarterback before Manning arrived on campus in 1994.
"As a friend, he was nice to me as an 18-year old, homesick freshman up there in Knoxville," Manning said Thursday while Helton across town playing a day game against the St. Louis Cardinals. "Todd was a big star when I got there already, a Knoxville legend, and so he took time to be nice to me. I appreciated that. He's been a good friend my entire time we've known each other, almost 20 years."
Helton became the Tennessee starter after the first game in 1994 when Jerry Colquitt was injured in the season-opener. However, Helton played just three weeks before hurting his knee. His replacement was Manning, who was a freshman and third-string quarterback but started his standout college career then.
Manning said their friendship was cemented a couple of years ago during the NFL lockout and while Manning was recovering from surgery.
"During that lockout when I was in a strange injury situation, for him to get on the phone and call me and invite me out here to work out with the Rockies, in private, and use the Rockies' trainers - I'll always be indebted to him," Manning said. "I was in a kind of a weird place, an unknown. I had really nobody to turn to medically because of the lockout. What Todd did, that really kind of gave me some good direction. I'll always be indebted to him for that."
Manning has been to a couple Rockies' games since joining the Broncos but has followed Helton's career since the day he left Tennessee. Helton leaves after 17 season and more than 2,500 hits in the major leagues.
"I know a lot of baseball guys and I've been in enough baseball locker rooms, and I know that Todd Helton has the respect of all of his opponents and peers," Manning said. "That's a credit to him for how he's played the game. He's played hurt. He's been a tough player, a consistent player.
"To do it for that long, like I said, I think sometimes when you just write, '17-year career,' it doesn't do it justice. You ought to put it in bold, caps and write it about 50 times just to realize how much work he put in."
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