At 36 years old, Denver Broncos wide receiver Brandon Stokley had his best season since 2007. He finished the regular season with 45 catches for 544 yards and 5 touchdowns which ties for the second most touchdowns in a season in his 14-year career.
Always Peyton Manning’s go-to guy on third-and-long, Stokley may be small, but his sure hands and experience made him a great target among the Broncos’ young receiving corp. He ended the season by contributing 3 catches and the game’s first offensive touchdown against the Baltimore Ravens.
Stokley is an unrestricted free agent now, and many perceive his future as up in the air.
“I think we’ll relax for a little while, but my plan is to get back to work and hopefully play another year,” Stokley said of his future. “This is about the only thing I do halfway decent, so for me, why not? I feel like I still love it, I still love competing and I still love playing football so hopefully I’ll get another opportunity.”
If Manning had not come to Denver, Stokley likely would have spent this season on his couch.
“Without him, I wouldn’t have played this year, there’s no doubt,” Stokley said. “I’d be retired, probably about 20 pounds heavier, so, yeah, I owe him a lot for this year and a lot for my career in general. Coming from Baltimore, going to Indy, that kind of sparked my career, playing with him. Yeah, I owe the guy a lot.”
Last off season, Manning needed to workout before multiple teams tried to coax him to their respective cities, and he wanted to do it with familiar receivers. Under the watchful eye of Duke head coachDavid Cutcliffe, Manning threw to his former Indianapolis Colts‘ crew.
“I told a few guys: Dallas (Clark), (Austin Collie), Stokley, I can get you courtside tickets to Duke-North Carolina, but you’ve got to come and throw for three days with me. I really needed to do these workouts because I was getting ready to have to workout for teams, whoever it may be.”
Stokley was looking so good during the workouts that Cutcliffe told him that he should give it another shot in the NFL. He was running quick routes, keeping up with the younger guys, and as strong as ever. As good as Stokley looked, Manning still had to rip into him a little bit.
“Brandon had been working out a little bit,” Manning said. “He came down there and we were working pretty good, throwing twice a day. I think that’s why Duke got beat in basketball because Brandon used the Duke trainers to work on him so much, they didn’t spend any time on the basketball team.”
Manning showed the Broncos some tape, and Stokley looked good enough on film for the team to bring him in for a workout. The rest is history. Now the Broncos have a full season’s worth of tape to determine whether they want him back.
“I love this group of guys in this locker room and the receivers that we had—it couldn’t have been better,” Stokley said. “It was just a lot of fun. I had so much fun. Like I said, it’s about the only thing I do halfway decent.”
Just like age, ‘decent’ is all relative.