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Old pal Helton on Manning to Denver: 'It's neat'

Old pal Helton on Manning to Denver: 'It's neat'

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Rockies first baseman Todd Helton was the last quarterback at Tennessee to take a snap in a football game before Peyton Manning took over in 1994. The two have been friends since their college days.

Now they'll have more chances to catch up with one another. News broke Monday that Manning, who won a Super Bowl and put up all-time numbers with the Indianapolis Colts, was on the verge of signing a free-agent contract with the Denver Broncos.

"I'm excited," Helton said. "It's a good move. He's a great football player, one of the best of all-time.

"It's neat. When he was in Indy, it wasn't a city we traveled to. I was just hoping he was going to go to a city where we play. To have him in Denver is going to be great."

Helton has full confidence that Manning will make a successful return from multiple neck surgeries that cost him the 2011 season. Manning spent part of last summer in Denver and was a frequent visitor to Coors Field. Helton worked out with Manning at Duke University during the offseason and expects him to play well.

"I kept telling him how impressed I was at how far he had come since he came out [to Denver] after he had surgeries," Helton said. "He was throwing the ball as well as I'd ever seen him. I'm an untrained eye, but I know it hurt when I caught it."

Of course, the Manning news trumped pretty much anything that happened in Denver sports, including the Rockies' 4-3 victory over the Angels in a Cactus League game.

"I did get a hit, too," Helton said while walking away from a group of reporters.