Like many NFL players, defensive lineman Mike DeVito remembers the first time he faced Peyton Manning.
It was 2009, and DeVito — an eight-year veteran who has spent the last three years with the Chiefs — was with the New York Jets then. During the lead-up to the game, he could already tell this would not been an ordinary week.
“I just remember how the intensity and attention to detail really turned up with our coaching staff, and they relayed that to us,” DeVito said. “The guy knows the game so well that if you had any little tell — like a d-lineman putting his hand on his knee or a cornerback getting into position too quick — he knew it and picked you apart.”
DeVito’s Jets won that day, 29-15, but DeVito went 1-5 against Manning with the Chiefs in 2013. The Chiefs did pummel Manning in November, however — the games wasn’t as close as the final score of 29-13 — and that one will go down as their last go-round against Manning. The Denver Broncos announced Manning’s retirement Sunday.
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Manning, 39, will forgo $19 million and a 19th season in the NFL, where he served as both a throwback and a transformer during a glittering career bookmarked by an unprecedented five MVP awards and dozens of passing records.
Manning leaves the league he helped popularize to supersize status as its all-time leading passer and winningest starting quarterback, the only one in NFL history to win Super Bowls with two franchises.
His first came in 2007 with the Indianapolis Colts, who drafted him No. 1 overall in 1998. The Colts gave up on him after a series of neck surgeries forced Manning to miss all of the 2011 season and left him without feeling in the fingertips of his right hand.
A rare superstar quarterback on the open market in 2012, Manning resettled in Denver, where, despite a right arm weakened by nerve damage, he went 50-15 with his fifth MVP award and two trips to the Super Bowl in four seasons.
The 18th season for No. 18 was by far his most trying on the field. He had to adjust to new coach Gary Kubiak’s run-based offense, to unrelenting health issues and to questions about his character on his way to winning his second Super Bowl.
Manning, whose dry wit and star power has made him a staple of commercials and late-night television for nearly two decades, saw his squeaky-clean image take a beating as the final pages were flipped on his storied career.
The NFL is investigating allegations that human growth hormone was shipped to his home in his wife’s name following an Al Jazeera America report that Manning dismissed as “garbage.” And in a new lawsuit filed last month. Manning was cited as an example of a hostile environment for women at the University of Tennessee for his alleged harassment of a female trainer in 1996.
A torn ligament in his left foot hampered Manning all the way back to August. It led to his worst statistical season and sidelined him for six weeks before that fairy tale finish in Santa Clara, California, when his defense carried him across the finish line.
Constantly harassed, never quite comfortable — sort of the way the whole season played out — Manning walked away with his second NFL title after Denver’s defense, with seven sacks and four takeaways, all but handed him the Lombardi Trophy in a 24-10 victory over the Carolina Panthers.
It was the perfect ending to a legendary career. He finished in a tie with Brett Favre for most regular-season wins with 186, and his victory in Super Bowl 50 was his 14th in the postseason, one more than Favre, making him the NFL’s only 200-win quarterback. He also threw an NFL-high 539 TD passes, including a record 55 in 2013.
Kansas City knows his greatness all too well, as Manning also finishes his career 12-2 against the Chiefs, a tally that includes two playoff victories, and has guided the Broncos to four straight AFC West titles.
The Chiefs did get the last laugh, in a way, as they intercepted him four times in their November matchup, and safety Ron Parker now has the distinction of recording the last regular-season interception Manning ever threw.
But Manning, of course, got the one thing the Chiefs wanted most — a title. It’s an ending DeVito, who is set to be a free agent, now says he and everybody else could have anticipated.
“No matter how far ahead you were, he could bring them back,” DeVito said. “(It’s fitting) he goes and wins the Super Bowl when everybody, including myself, counted him out.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.