Manning missed all of the 2011 season after undergoing neck surgery. The Indianapolis Colts released him in March 2012 as they were poised to select Andrew Luck with the No. 1 overall pick in the draft. That triggered a frenzied rush among teams in search of a short-term solution at quarterback.
In a story published on SI.com on Thursday, John Glennon recounted how the Titans attempted to court the future Hall of Famer.
The Titans sent a delegation to North Carolina on the private plane of then-owner Bud Adams to pick up Manning and get him to Nashville, Tennessee. After conducting a meeting, the involved parties agreed to a workout at a location to be determined.
Titans receiver Marc Mariani was in Cocoa Beach, Florida, to visit relatives but had to hop on a 5:30 a.m. ET flight to get to Nashville for the workout. Steve Watterson, a former Titans strength and conditioning coach, told Glennon he picked Mariani up at the airport and thought they were being followed by media members:
"I remember saying, 'Alright, this is B.S., we're going to put an end to this,' So, I pull off on an exit ramp, and then I go back in the other direction. I'm kind of joking about it, like we're really being sneaky. But I ended up driving around the back of a Walmart, where all the cardboard is, and then coming back out.
"When we came back and hit the ramp back to the highway … if there had been a cop anywhere around, I definitely would have been busted. I'm not even going to tell you how fast we were going. But we didn't see anyone behind us after that."
Knoxville, Tennessee, had been selected as the site of the workout, and Manning picked a local high school because the areas surrounding the University of Tennessee campus were already teeming with reporters.
Manning had laid out the schedule for the showcase, throwing "about 40 or 50 passes." After the event, he treated everybody to cheeseburgers at a restaurant outside Knoxville.
"I thought it was a great day for us," former head coach Mike Munchak said. "We felt good about it. There wasn't much more we could have done to sway him, I don't think. I remember thinking at the time we were in a great place. It was down to us and Denver, and we felt like we had a great opportunity."
Of course, Manning ultimately signed with the Denver Broncos.
At least Titans personnel got some good burgers out of the whole thing.