Eli and Peyton Manning at Braves spring training. (AP)
The baseball roots are pretty strong with this weekend's NFL teams, namely at quarterback.
Three of the four starting quarterbacks remaining were drafted by MLB teams, and the one who was not — the Denver Broncos' Peyton Manning — was backed up in college at Tennessee by someone who would go on to become an All-Star: Colorado Rockies legend Todd Helton.
It's fascinating to look back and play the what-if card with Russell Wilson, Colin Kaepernick and Tom Brady. What would have happened had they considered baseball over football, and how good of players would they have made?
Let's take a look at the diamond options the three quarterbacks had available to them.
The Seahawks quarterback played A-level ball for the Colorado Rockies as a second baseman in the 2010 and 2011 seasons, overlapping his college career at North Carolina State (prior to transferring to Wisconsin) and he has admitted that he still thinks about his love for the sport. In fact, Wilson's rights belong to the Texas Rangers after he was selected in baseball's Rule 5 draft in 2013.
* * *
The football-throwing arm of San Francisco 49ers' Colin Kaepernick might be one of the strongest in the NFL, and the Chicago Cubs thought enough about it to draft him in the 43rd round back in 2009. The team wanted him to consider pitching while playing football at Nevada, but it never worked out. It did for Kaepernick's football career, though; meanwhile, the Cubs are kind of baseball's cruel, recurring joke. And Kaepernick likely has an open invitation of throwing out first pitches at Giants games for lifetime after he scalded an 87 mph fastball before a game this past June. Showoff!
* * *
The New England Patriots' Tom Brady has a story that has been well told, but people seem to forget about his baseball roots. Brady was a catcher, and he was a good enough prospect to be picked in the 18th round by the Montreal Expos — and he might have gone higher had he not signed a football scholarship with Michigan. They continued nagging him even after he landed in Ann Arbor, but Brady was determined to stick with football.
Even Manning played baseball as a youth. He was a shortstop, and a pretty good one, but there are not too many great tall shortstops (Manning is 6-foot-4) in baseball history, save for Cal Ripken and Alex Rodriguez. Not that Manning ever was in their zip code of talent, anyway ...
In all four cases, it would be hard to argue that any of them made a poor career choice. After all, look where they are now. Perhaps Kaepernick with that golden right arm could have become a staff ace somewhere over time, and maybe Wilson had the goods and the grit to make it to the big leagues.
But we're talking about four of the NFL's best quarterbacks — two surefire Hall of Famers on the AFC side, and two budding franchise quarterbacks on the NFC side of the ledger. We'll go ahead and say they made wise choices unless someone can convince us otherwise.
- - - - - - -
- Sports & Recreation
- American Football
- Peyton Manning
- Tom Brady
- Colin Kaepernick
- Russell Wilson
- Colorado Rockies