What defines a career? A Superbowl ring? Records and statistics? Memories?
The league solidifies special players in the Hall of Fame, a dream no doubt every player has. But realistically only a select few ever make it there. The players enshrined have had careers that will never be forgotten and will be the benchmark for future generations.
The NFL however is full of blue collar players that make their careers entertaining the thousands that come to watch every week. They may not be the best of the best, but they play out their footballing lives content to work their hardest and stay in the background, occasionally making their presence felt on the national stage.
Brandon Stokley is one such player. He has been on five teams, has two Superbowl rings, catching a touchdown in the big game for the Ravens in 2000, and has been on the receiving end of some of the most memorable plays this decade.
On Monday, Brandon Stokley caught a touchdown pass against the Chargers to put Denver in the lead for the first time in the game, a stunning grab in tight coverage which signalled the beginning of the end for San Diego’s chances. His pass was thrown by future Hall of Famer Peyton Manning, a special player who has been linked to Stokley throughout the wideout’s career.
Stokley arrived at the Colts in 2003 and after just one year, Stokley had the best season of his career, recording 1077 yards and 10 TDs. He was part of the first trio of wide receivers to record over 1000 yards and 10 touchdowns each in a single season. That was also the year Peyton Manning broke Dan Marino’s seemingly unbreakable single season touchdown record. Guess who caught the record breaking ball?
In 2009 when Stokley was first with the Broncos, Bengals’ cornerback Leon Hall tipped a pass by Kyle Orton away from Brandon Marshall. It hung high in the air until it fell into Stokley’s hands, luckily positioned to make a play. He then raced 87 yards down the sideline amid commentators’ shouts and yells of excitement to win the game for the Broncos. Stokley also proved his worth in Seattle, scoring a touchdown in the historic victory in the 2010 playoffs as the 7-9 Seahawks beat the defending champions New Orleans Saints.
Back in Denver and back with Peyton Manning, Stokley returns for his 14th year and is doing what his job requires him to do; play the best football he can. Monday night’s catch will not only send a message to the rest of the league that Stokley is still a viable option and needs to be accounted for, but it will give Stokley the confidence to realise that at 36 he is not done yet.