The center of attention at this year’s Super Bowl was the center of attention for deployed troops just one year ago.
Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning - who set NFL records for passing yards (5,477) and touchdowns (55) this season - will take on the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday night. Manning went on a USO Tour hosted by Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. James Winnefeld Jr., last February.
Manning kept a journal of his experience for ESPN, which featured this passage:
[I] experienced a true first in my life. I have thrown footballs in lots and lots of places. Boats, prisons, schools, military bases, hospitals, golf course fairways, malls, birthday parties, bar mitzvahs, Mardi Gras floats, French Quarter, etc., but I ain’t never thrown a football in an airplane.
And I am not talking about little 3-yard lob passes. I was throwing 35-yard bullets to a guy who had the best hands on the entire USO tour, Senior Airman Stephen Gasperic. He was catching passes while trying to avoid falling over luggage, probably a couple of missiles back there as well for all I knew.
He fell over a couple of times on some high throws, but he never dropped one.
Manning will have a few USO tour veterans on the sidelines with him Sunday night, too.
Broncos starting cornerback Champ Bailey went on a USO tour last spring along with former Pro Bowl linebacker Von Miller. Miller tore his anterior cruciate ligament in December and won’t be able to play in Sunday’s game.
And the Broncos coach is a USO tour vet, too. John Fox went on a USO tour in 2010, back when he was the head coach of the Carolina Panthers.