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CHARLOTTE, N.C. — If the Carolina Panthers had their way, maybe Peyton Manning would be playing for them — not against them — in the Super Bowl.
When Manning was coming out for the 1998 draft, the Panthers approached Indianapolis Colts general manager Bill Polian with a megadeal offer.
It included trading fourth-year quarterback Kerry Collins and multiple draft picks, including their first-round selection that year, for the right to take Manning with the No. 1 overall selection.
Carolina was hoping Polian, who had drafted Collins just three years before while working as the GM for the Panthers, would pull the trigger on the deal.
The problem was that Polian wouldn't even consider the offer.
"Bill was dead set against it," said Dom Capers, Carolina's head coach at the time who was also given control of personnel decisions when Polian left the team after the 1997 season.
"He was set on keeping the pick. You never know on those kinds of things — but sometimes you have to try."
Polian said he had his heart set on drafting Manning.
"There wasn't anything they could give us that was going to replace Peyton Manning," Polian said.
Capers, now the defensive coordinator with the Green Bay Packers, said he was "blown away" after meeting Manning at the NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis in February 1998.
Manning walked into the interview with a yellow notepad, sat down and started asking Capers questions.
"He left the room, and I sat there in amazement," Capers said. "It was like he was interviewing me for an hour. He was incredibly professional, focused, and you just knew right then he was going to be a player."
Apparently, so did Polian.
The Colts at the time already had running back Marshall Faulk, wide receiver Marvin Harrison and offensive tackle Tarik Glenn on the roster, and Polian felt all they needed was a quarterback.
He liked Manning over Collins, whom he selected with the fifth overall pick in 1995.
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"We liked Kerry, but we didn't feel like it was a fair return," Polian said. "We felt Peyton had so much potential. Honestly, there was nothing anybody could have offered us that would have made us decide to move the pick."
Said Capers: "Bill knew what he had with the No. 1 pick in Peyton. We tried. We talked with Bill, but Bill just wasn't going to do it. He thought Peyton was going to be something special — and he proved him right."
Manning is expected to be a first-ballot Hall of Famer.