DURHAM, N.C. (AP) — Peyton and Eli Manning listened intently to Duke coach David Cutcliffe’s instructions as the NFL quarterbacks worked up a sweat, briskly throwing a mix of deep and short passes at the Blue Devils’ indoor practice field.
The Super Bowl winners still trust what their college mentor has to say.
So when they needed somewhere to tune up their games before voluntary NFL workouts begin next week, they reunited with the coach they’ve known for roughly two decades.
“That’s why we came back here — we come to get coached,” Eli Manning said. “We thought this was a good way to come back, work on some of the mechanics, make sure everything is in check before we start working as a group and as a team.”
The Mannings brought some NFL teammates — including new Denver receiver Wes Welker and New York Giants wideout Victor Cruz — to Duke this week to fine-tune a few things and receive some guidance from their mentor.
“It’s an unusual relationship, one that I think we all appreciate,” Cutcliffe said. “We all come out here and it really does go right back to coaching them. … And now we can walk off the field and get in the car and become best of friends.”
Cutcliffe certainly goes way back with the Mannings. He was the offensive coordinator at Tennessee who groomed Peyton into the No. 1 overall draft pick in 1998.
He took over later that year at Mississippi — the alma mater of family patriarch Archie Manning — and did the same thing for Eli, whom Cutcliffe says he has known since he was a boy and “was going to the theater to see `The Lion King.”‘
“Eli and I are doing a lot of the same drills that I did when I was a freshman at Tennessee in 1994,” Peyton said. “You get a good drill that teaches a certain fundamental, you don’t have to change it. You do the same thing over and over again, and that’s what I believe in is consistency. That’s something (Cutcliffe) helps me with — consistency and trying to stay out of bad habits.”
The brothers certainly have grown quite comfortable on the Duke campus since Cutcliffe was hired before the 2008 season, attending North Carolina-Duke men’s basketball games over the years with him. They’re crashing at his house for this “three-day minicamp,” Peyton said.
Cutcliffe welcomed in Eli to work out in 2011, and Peyton made Duke his headquarters last spring while the four-time NFL MVP and Super Bowl winner recovered from neck surgery and talked to several NFL teams before signing a free-agent deal with the Broncos.
“Last year, with the sort of unique circumstances I was in, I really needed a coach to coach me in my rehab,” Peyton said. “And what better guy to go to than somebody who’s seen me throw more than anybody except my dad, probably.”
Added Eli, who led the Giants to two Super Bowl wins in five years: “I think a lot of my mechanics, a lot of my fundamentals are because of doing his drills and his coaching through the years. You kind of want to go back to the source and make sure everything’s in check.”
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