Any player who has ever had the honor of lining up on a football field with Peyton Manning hollering out audibles at him will tell you that the man made them. Manning is known around football circles as one of - if not the best - quarterback to ever line up under center, and while the debate will rage on for decades as to Manning's place in the annals of football history, there is no one who will ever doubt his ability to throw touchdown passes (during the regular season, at least).
Last Sunday night, Manning broke Brett Favre's touchdown pass record. He took the equivalent of nearly four seasons less that Favre to accomplish the feat, all while playing the last few years with a surgically repaired neck (so imagine how much sooner he would have broken it had he not missed an entire regular season).
As good as Manning has been throughout his illustrious career, though, he has plenty of people around him that he needs to thank - specifically the 45 men who've caught at least one touchdown pass from him since he broke into the NFL in 1998. Truth be told, Manning has had an elite supporting cast around him practically his entire professional career, and while he is usually the one moulding good athletes into great ones, there's still some credit that should be given out to some of the elite playmakers he's been teamed up with over the years.
While the list of players who've caught a TD pass from the future Hall of Famer is a long one, it has been narrowed down to ten of the finest who've suited up and caught a TD pass from Manning. Based on the way Manning has been playing as of late, there might be room for a few more names down the road if he can keep playing at a high level for a couple more years.
*Keep in mind that this list takes into account the entirety of the player's career, not just his production while playing with Peyton.
10 Austin Collie (15 TDs)
The list starts off with a bit of a surprise - Austin Collie did not have a long and illustrious career as a receiver, but during the years he played, he flashed as a go-to option in the powerful Manning-led Indianapolis Colts offense. In his first three seasons in Indy, he tallied at least 50 catches and 500 yards receiving, and scored 16 touchdowns during that span. Unfortunately for Collie, a budding career was ruined by injury woes that he was never able to shake off. Collie makes the list more for what could have been, as opposed to what he did. The talent was clearly there, but luck was never on his side.
9 Marcus Pollard (34 TDs)
Marcus Pollard is not a name that will pop off the list of names who have caught a pass from Peyton Manning, but there's no doubting that Pollard was an effective and productive member of the Colts offense during the earlier years of Manning's time with the Colts. Pollard reeled in 34 Manning touchdowns, as a red-zone threat and a legitimate big-play threat, as he often finished with an average yards per play between 11-14 yards. Pollard was ultimately fazed out by the emergence of another big-name tight-end, but he earns his spot on the list for his time as Manning's "safety blanket" earlier in the quarterback's career.
8 Julius Thomas (21 TDs)
Julius Thomas may not have as much NFL experience as others on this list, but there's no doubting he is one of the most talented players Manning has ever been able to throw too. In less than two full years together, Thomas has already reeled in 21 Manning-thrown touchdown passes, and there's no doubt that that number will continue to rise as long as the two line up on the field at the same time. The former basketball player turned tight end has been an absolute force down in the red-zone, and has been Manning's favorite target down near the goal-line (and that won't change anytime soon).
7 Dallas Clark (44 TDs)
The run on tight ends continues here with one of Manning's favorite targets of all-time. Dallas Clark was the quintessential NFL tight-end: big, strong, good hands and nose for the end-zone. Clark is the one who pushed out Marcus Pollard and anchored the edges of Manning's offensive line until Manning went down with the neck injury in 2011. Clark matched his Colts jersey number with 44 Manning-thrown touchdowns, and was one of the most productive tight-ends of the 2000's.
6 Edgerrin James (11 TDs)
If Manning was the brains of the mighty Colts offenses of the 2000's, Edgerring James was the brawn. The big, bruising back put up gaudy rushing numbers with Peyton running the prolific Colts offense, topping 1,000 yards seven times and even going over 1,500 four times while with the Colts. James did his fair share of work in the passing game too, with an average of 50 catches a season during his seven years in Indy. James was ultimately shown the door after the emergence of Joseph Addai, but Addai was never able to truly match the impact James made while running behind Manning.
5 Wes Welker (11 TDs)
If there's one simple way to describe Wes Welker (besides undersized), it would be "vacuum cleaner", because all he does is inhale passes. Welker has been arguably the most consistent receiver in the league since he was swiped off a hellish Miami Dolphins roster and teamed up with the Golden Boy, Tom Brady, in New England. Welker ultimately "cheated" on Brady to go join Manning, and while many brought his loyalty into question, it turns out he made the right decision. Welker has dealt with concussion issues the last few seasons, which have hurt his production, but he's still been able to put up fairly solid numbers with the Broncos.
4 Demaryius Thomas (30 TDs)
Demaryius Thomas has all the physical tools scouts look for in an NFL-caliber wide-receiver; size, speed, strong hands and big-play ability. Unfortunately for Thomas, he was stuck with Kyle Orton and Tim Tebow during his first few years in Denver. Everything changed when Manning signed with the Broncos, as Thomas has been one of the best receivers in the league since Denver finally got him a quarterback to work with. He averaged 93 receptions, 1,432 yards and 12 TD's in his first two seasons with Manning, and is having another big year in 2014 with 47 catches, 767 yards and 6 TDs through eight weeks in 2014.
3 Reggie Wayne (67 TDs)
If it wasn't for the next name on our list, Reggie Wayne might have bigger numbers, and he might be considered one of the greatest Colts receivers of all time. Even in his "old" age, Wayne is still putting up massive receiving numbers in Indy. He's been admittedly spoiled, seeing as he's caught passes from Peyton Manning and Andrew Luck since the beginning of his career, so it would be a major disappointment if someone with Wayne's talent wasn't putting up big numbers every season. There's still time for Wayne to add to his career totals, but (barring a stunning trade) he'll never be higher than second on the list of touchdowns caught from Manning, thanks to the next name on our list...
2 Marvin Harrison (112 TDs)
You might be asking yourself - Marvin Harrison, second on the list? Who could possibly be better than Harrison on this list?!
Fear not, you'll understand shortly. For now, let's heap praise on the greatest wide receiver to ever line up alongside the majestic Peyton Manning. 14,580 total receiving yards and a whopping 128 receiving TD's made Harrison not just the greatest receiver to ever play for the Colts, but one of the greatest of all time. Manning and Harrison hold the crown as the league's best QB-WR duo of all-time, a title that will probably never be taken away from them.
1 Marshall Faulk (4 TDs)
Marshall Faulk was arguably the best all-around running back of the last 30 years. His 12,279 rushing yards have him ranked 10th on the all-time rushing list, and he ranks sixth all-time in all-purpose yards with 19,172. Faulk only played one season with Manning before moving onto to the Rams, where he had the best seasons of his illustrious career, but during their short time together Faulk still managed to rush for 1,319 yards and catch an impressive 86 balls out of the backfield for 908 yards and 4 receiving scores (all from Manning, of course).
One can only wonder what kind of damage the two could have done had Faulk stuck around a little bit longer with the team that drafted him second overall in 1994. Faulk was traded for second and fifth round picks by then Colts GM Bill Polian (a trade that looks foolish in hindsight) after rumors swirled of missed practices, chemistry issues with teammates, and a potential contract holdout. Faulk went from playing with one future Hall of Fame to another in Kurt Warner (as they combined to create "The Greatest Show on Turf"), but one can still have a hearty debate as to whether or not Faulk could have been even better if he had a few more seasons with Manning as his quarterback.
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