But not for the reasons you might think.
“He was my favorite player growing up and I’ve always kind of idolized him,” Weeden said of Manning while on a break from signing autographs and taking pictures for fans on Saturday afternoon at Byford Buick/GMC. “I’m curious to see where he ends up, just as a fan of football and a fan of his.”
The reality is, however, that Manning will ultimately impact Weeden’s NFL future because of the quarterback carousel that will begin when Manning decides where he’ll play next.
John Elway’s most recent trip to Stillwater showed exactly how.
Elway went to dinner with Weeden on March 8, the night before the Hall of Fame quarterback watched closely as Weeden ran the 40-yard dash and went through a throwing session at OSU’s Pro Day.
Just a couple hours after that, though, Elway was schmoozing Manning in Denver while showing him around the Broncos facilities. The courtship actually started at Stillwater Regional Airport, after Manning had been flown to town to meet up with Elway and Co. before continuing on to Denver.
Weeden realizes that’s all part of the big business that is the NFL. He went as far to say it was “pretty cool” that Manning was in Stillwater for those couple minutes and that Elway essentially went from evaluating him to trying to convince Manning to be the Broncos’ quarterback.
“A good point is they’re not recruiting me,” Weeden said of the Broncos. “That’s the thing you have to keep in mind. It’s just kind of how you fall and if you fall in their lap. They’re not out there trying to sell their franchise. They’re trying to get a feel for you.
“They’re doing their job (in also pursuing Manning). That’s just the way the business works and I completely understand it.”
But if Manning signed with San Francisco, the finalist that appears to be in the best position to win a Super Bowl, that would likely create the longest string of ripple effects.
In any other year, the 49ers would almost certainly re-sign Alex Smith after his breakout 2011 season. Where would Smith wind up if Manning picked San Francisco? Miami? Cleveland? Seattle also appeared to be an option before the Seahawks signed Matt Flynn Sunday evening.
And what would all of that mean for the draft stock of Texas A&M’s Ryan Tannehill, the quarterback widely projected to be ranked one spot higher of Weeden?
Weeden admits this whole pre-draft process is now making him a bit anxious. He just wants to know where he’s going to play in 2012. And trying to predict where he could wind up, with the biggest free-agent quarterback in NFL history unsigned, can be a bit dizzying.
Weeden joked that a team he hasn’t even spoken to yet will probably draft him.
But once Manning finds a new home, we should be able to narrow down the possible landing spots for Weeden, based on which teams still need to draft a quarterback that could start right away. At age 28, Weeden likely won’t land on a team that plans to sit a rookie quarterback for a few years.
And when Weeden signs his first contract, he’ll be able to thank one of his childhood sports heroes for indirectly sending him to that franchise.