When you have super powers, you become a super hero.
And when you make superpower-like catches in the NFL - over and over and over - well, you're a super hero too.
Emmanuel Sanders (@ESanders_10) November 16, 2014
With 12 games of one circus catch after another, and seven of those games amassing 100+ yards receiving, "He-Manuel Sanders" (as coined by the hilarious Brandon Perna) is the latest super hero to join the Mile High Masters of the Universe.
And it is the perfect super hero to assign No. 10.
On the sidelines, in the locker room, during training camp ... Sanders can be found studying the playbook, taking rep after rep to get his timing down with the king, Peyton Manning, or having fun with his teammates.
But turn on the game lights, and this soldier becomes, well, a super hero.
Just as Prince Adam transforms into Eternia's greatest champion when he holds the sword of Grayskull, Sanders changes from just another gifted athlete to a lethal weapon when he snags that pigskin.
"By the power of Mile High...I have the POWER!!!"
(If you were a kid watching TV in the 80s, that reference totally just made sense to you. If you have no idea what I'm talking about, relive the magic that was Saturday morning cartoons here!)
Acquired in free agency, Sanders was brought in to replace the Broncos former No. 2 receiver - and female fan favorite -Eric Decker.
Living beyond all expectations, Sanders dove headfirst into the playbook the minute he got to Denver and reached out to Broncos Country almost as quickly.
Using the hashtag #FollowMeE, Sanders immediately updated his Twitter followers to add diehard Broncos fans to his loyal Pittsburgh following.
And it is easy to see why he has so many fans in both places.
With a smile as big as the state he is from, the Texas native loves interacting with the people who cheer him on.
He regularly talks with fans via #AskE on Twitter, and is frequently giving away autographed gear throughout the week with such tags as #GimmeDemGlovesE or #PickMeE.
He has endeared himself to Broncos Country in the span of just a few months.
But he hasn't won over Broncos Country with just his smile and signature. His play on the field is what has impressed fans the most.
And more importantly - has impressed Manning.
"It's hard to make comparisons to years past, but I can just tell you I've enjoyed playing with him," Manning said after the Oct. 23 Chargers game in which Sanders caught a trio of touchdown passes and had a breakout scoring night. "He's got a great work ethic. He really loves football, and he brings that energy to practice every day and also to the playing field. He's had a great attitude."
Sanders has shown that energy and attitude time and time again, proving John Elway's genius once more at bringing in a guy who had the skills and just needed the team to showcase them.
Though Sanders has complimented both of the quarterbacks he has played under - Ben Roethlisberger and now Manning - when he signed with the Broncos, Sanders proclaimed he was going to "wide receiver heaven."
In an interview with Bob Costas last week that aired on Football In America before the game against the Chiefs at Arrowhead, Sanders reiterated that sentiment.
"Playing with Peyton Manning, you get an opportunity to sling the football around and catch a lot of balls," he told Costas. "I'm having the best season of my career right now, and I'm having fun for the first time. I'm enjoying it, and that's why I said it's wide receiver heaven."
And it must be.
In his four years with the Steelers, Sanders never had a season over 740 yards receiving. But in just 12 games with the Broncos, he has 1,152 yards in receptions - already more than half of the 2,030 yards he gained over the course of four years in Pittsburgh.
But Sanders isn't blaming anyone in Pittsburgh. He still calls Roethlisberger one of the most athletic football players he has ever known and considers himself blessed to have played with two elite QBs.
"I have nothing but respect for both of these guys," Sanders told Costas, adding that "Ben makes big-time plays with his legs and has a really good arm" while "Peyton is all about timing."
"[Manning] wants you to be at the appropriate depth at the right time at the right place because he's throwing the ball before you get out of the break," Sanders said.
And it's that precision in timing that prompted Sanders to put in a lot of extra work over the summer.
The wide receiver frequently tweeted that he was spending his night with flashcards of Manning's offense or that the plane ride was going to be all about studying film on the iPad. And reports out of Training Camp often noted that Sanders was spending extra time with Manning after practice.
"Obviously, when I came to Denver, the first thing to do was earn Peyton's trust," Sanders said. "So I stayed after. I caught a lot of passes. ...At training camp, I'm in [Manning's] room going over signs, signals...just trying to gain that trust."
And he's done just that.
So far this season, Sanders has connected 82 times with Manning, compared to 161 receptions his entire time as a Steeler. He has seven touchdowns as a Bronco so far; he had 11 in four years at Pittsburgh.
"I really didn't expect to have seven, 100-yard games, but now that I'm having them, I'm definitely having fun with it," Sanders said to Costas.
Even though Sanders knew he was joining an all-pro wide receiving corps, he also knew Manning enjoys having many targets.
"I knew coming here, obviously with Julius Thomas, Demaryius Thomas and Wes Welker ... I knew it was going to be hard for everyone to eat, but Peyton spreads the ball around to everyone," No. 10 said. "So everyone eats. Everyone gets an opportunity to make plays. They've really embraced me here."
And they've needed to.
Between Welker's early season suspension, D.T.'s mini-slump for the first three games and Julius Thomas' ankle injury a few weeks ago, Sanders has been one of the constants in Manning's offense, despite his own scary concussion during the Nov. 16 loss to the Rams in St. Louis.
Though there was some chatter about the legality of that hit, Sanders knows big hits are always a risk to wide receivers. It's part of what he loves about the game and one of the risks he's more than willing to take for this team.
"When I signed my name on the dotted line to play football, I knew what I was getting into. In football, we're the gladiators of this day," Sanders said, adding that he's played on the defensive side of the ball and had coaches since his PeeWee days tell them to hit as hard as they can. "That's one of the things I love about the game. I've been the DB getting that hit and bringing that moment. It brings positivity to the team. I understand what I'm getting into, but this is what I'm passionate about and this is what I love to do."
But whether Sanders is the main offensive target - or just one of the many weapons - he is all for the balanced offense that boasts a strong running game, especially heading into the colder months and playoffs, when putting the ball in the air is not always an option.
"Adam Gase is doing a good job trying to create that balance," Sanders told Costas. "We're trying to find that mold of how we want to go about it. In December it becomes hard to throw that football, and we're trying to figure that out right now."
The last two games the Broncos have figured it out pretty well as C.J. Anderson has stepped into the offensive mix with authority, running back-to-back games with 160+ yards rushing.
Whether the Broncos do it on the ground, in the air or just by stopping the other team's offense, Sanders is behind all of it - as long as it paves a path toward a championship.
As a rookie, Sanders was part of the Steelers team that went - and lost - in the 2011 Super Bowl.
Playing three and half more seasons since then, Sanders has a different outlook.
"I remember when I was a rookie and we did lose, I was walking around saying, ‘I want to go to the Super Bowl, hey guys, let's go to the Super Bowl,' instead of saying, ‘I want to win the Super Bowl,'" Sanders noted. "Now my mindset has totally changed. We have the ability to win it all, but we have to go out and get it."
But Sanders knows as much as the rest of the team, the championship doesn't come to a team just because it should. It comes from working hard and putting it all together at the right time.
So far the Broncos have been unable to put all the pieces of the puzzle together in one game.
But that remains the goal, and Sanders plans to do whatever he can to help the Broncos do just that.
"I'm passionate about playing this game, and I'm willing to do whatever it takes in order to get the win, whether it's putting my body on the line or doing whatever," Sanders said last week. "My main goal is I want to go to Pro Bowls and I want to win Super Bowls. I want to give it my all, and I don't want to hold anything back."
Yeah. What he said.
I mean, what He-Manuel said.