Over the course of his career, I had never seen a quarterback who was quite like Peyton Manning. He became an enigma who separated himself from others at the position due to a consistent track record of leadership and production. There was never a quarterback who played quite like Peyton Manning; that is, until Carson Palmer came along.
If one were to truly want to become one of the bests at the position, Carson Palmer recognized the value in learning to play like the best quarterback in the game.
The story of Carson Palmer's evolution into his Peyton-like transformation started early. From the very beginning, the two players shared many similarities.
Peyton Manning was the very best quarterback college football had to offer. He dominated at the University of Tennessee and built a solid foundation that propelled him to the very top of the 1998 NFL draft. That day, Peyton Manning was selected No. 1 overall and became the future face of the Indianapolis Colts.
Carson Palmer, like Peyton Manning, also became the very best quarterback college football had to offer while playing at the University of Southern California. Facing the same situation that Peyton Manning did in 1998, Carson Palmer remained fearless in the face of being drafted to the NFL's worst franchise.
Few people know that Palmer's agents were working on a plan for him to escape the losing tradition that Cincinnati had to offer. They wanted to help him do what Eli Manning would do the following year, get drafted to a team that didn't appear doomed from the start.
Carson Palmer, however, refused to resort to such tactics and ended up being drafted No. 1 overall by the Cincinnati Bengals in 2003. He welcomed the challenge of bringing back some prestige to a franchise that, prior to his drafting, was sorely lacking it.
Carson Palmer took over during the beginning of the 2004 season, a year after be spent the entire 2003 season learning on the sidelines.
In an effort to better help develop his skills, Carson Palmer decided to make a bold move and fly out to Indianapolis.
He convinced Chad Johnson to join him to watch the Indianapolis Colts face the Minnesota Vikings on Monday Night Football. The duo made the trip and actually got to sit in the seats provided by Edgerrin James.
That night, Carson Palmer and Chad Johnson witnessed history.
Peyton Manning and Marvin Harrison became the most prolific passing combination in NFL history that night. Palmer kept his eyes on Peyton Manning; studying the interaction Manning had with his team-mates on the sideline, the kind of thing you wouldn't get to appreciate by watching it television.
As Palmer and Johnson drove back to Cincinnati, Palmer told Johnson (referring to Peyton Manning and Marvin Harrison) that "They don't have anything we don't have. They're the best, but we could be that good, too."
In 2005, Carson Palmer developed into every bit the quarterback he was hoping to be. His Bengals even managed to duke it out with the undefeated Indianapolis Colts that year as Palmer came quite close to out dueling Manning in a 45-37 loss.
It is safe to say that Carson Palmer has come a long way since he was made the top draft pick in 2003.
Although he still has a ways to go before we will ever be considered to be as fine a quarterback as Peyton Manning, he has gotten off to a fantastic start by emulating the best in the game.
When healthy, Carson Palmer can play every bit as well as any other quarterback in the National Football League. In 2009, as Palmer returns from a season-ending elbow injury, he will again have his chance to take back his spot among the NFL's elite.
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