Alan Schwarz may be covering the Super Bowl for the New York Times, but our former senior writer is still a Baseball American at heart. During Media Day on Tuesday, he couldn't resist asking a baseball question. Alan asked Peyton Manning for a football scouting report on the player who preceded him at quarterback at Tennessee, Rockies first baseman Todd Helton.
"Athletic quarterback. Probably didn't study his plays a lot—kind of relied more on his athletic ability more than the mental, cerebral approach," Manning said with a smile. "I'm the opposite, because I can not run, and have limited athletic ability, so I have to use the cerebral parts. He and I were little bit of opposites.
"He was a competitive quarterback. He always used to get annoyed with me because [quarterbacks coach David] Cutcliffe would ask a question about the offense that I used to answer first—like that annoying kid in class. Todd used to let me hear about it. Todd and I are still close."
Helton played sparingly for the Volunteers' football team in his first two seasons in Knoxville, but he won the No. 2 quarterback job as a junior. When starter Jerry Colquitt suffered a season-ending knee injury in Tennessee's 1994 opener, Helton finished a loss against UCLA and went 1-2 in three starts before spraining a knee. He finished that season with 36 completions in 66 attempts for 406 yards, with two touchdowns and three interceptions.
While Helton's bat may one day land him in Cooperstown, he also put his arm to good use on the mound in college. He had a 47 2/3-inning scoreless streak as a sophomore in 1994, and went 8-2, 1.66 with 12 saves in 1995. He made four starts as a junior, all complete-game victories. Helton also hit .407 with a Southeastern Conference-leading 20 homers and 92 RBIs that spring, capturing Baseball America's College Player of the Year award before the Rockies selected him eighth overall in the 1995 draft.
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