- The Washington Times - Saturday, October 21, 2006

Peyton Manning was already a Pro Bowl quarterback in 2000 when rookie linebacker Marcus Washington arrived in Indianapolis.

Their backgrounds were very different. Manning grew up in a lovely New Orleans neighborhood, the son of longtime NFL quarterback Archie Manning. Washington was raised in tiny Auburn, Ala., by a working-class single mother.

“I didn’t think too much of Peyton when we were in college,” said Washington, who played two years at Auburn while Manning was an All-American at Tennessee. “But when I got to Indianapolis, Peyton introduced himself and asked how I was making the adjustment to the pros. That showed me a lot about his character. He was a star. He didn’t have to do that. That’s one of the great things about football — no matter where you come from or what your background is, it brings everybody together.”

Perhaps so but in the NFL, at least, players mostly hang out with members of their position group. Still, Manning and Washington became buddies.

“I’ve never been as close to someone on offense as I was with Peyton,” said Washington, who will face his old pal for the first time since college when his Washington Redskins play at Indianapolis tomorrow. “I just really admired his work ethic and that whole Manning football tradition, and we started working out together.”

Washington recalls working out with Manning at the Colts’ facility on September 11.

“I was running on the treadmill next to Peyton and I looked up at the television and said, ‘Did that plane just hit that building?’” Washington recalled. “We stopped running. We were stunned. The second building hadn’t fallen yet. It seemed like a movie, but it was real.”

Washington describes Manning as easy to get along with despite all the acclaim the quarterback has received during a nine-year career that likely will land him in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

“Peyton’s a real down-to-earth guy,” Washington said. “He was the son of a big-time quarterback and he was the No.1 pick in the draft, but he was one of the first guys to get to the building and one of the last to leave every day. When the defense would be practicing and the offense would be inside, he would be out there throwing to Marvin Harrison or Reggie Wayne. Peyton always told me that I was a good player and that if I kept working the way I did, that I would make it big.”

Manning hated to see Washington leave for the Redskins in March 2004.

“Marcus was a huge part of our team and helped us win a ton of games,” Manning said of Washington, who started all but one game during his last three seasons in Indianapolis. “Marcus is a very active guy, just a phenomenal athlete with that kind of size and great speed. And he plays the game the right way.”

The Redskins are thrilled to have Washington, although his production is down this season — partly because of an ailing hip and partly because opposing offenses are running regularly to the opposite side.

“Whether it’s a meeting, a practice or a game, Marcus is going to give you every single ounce he has in him,” Redskins assistant head coach-defense Gregg Williams said. “He’s one of our top producers every single week in practice and every single week in a game.”

Washington made the Pro Bowl in his first year as a Redskin and enjoyed a reunion of sorts with Manning in Hawaii that week. But their friendship will be on hold tomorrow.

“It’s going to be exciting to play against Peyton,” Washington said. “I won’t outsmart him, so I’m going to have to try to outwork him.”

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