Peyton Manning: A Player for the Ages

Vol legend enshrined into the Pro Football Hall of Fame
Published: Aug. 7, 2021 at 9:19 AM EDT|Updated: Mar. 24, 2023 at 8:52 AM EDT
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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) - A student of the game he’s loved since childhood. Peyton Manning’s football journey started in New Orleans, moved to Knoxville, then on to Indianapolis and finally Denver.

An All-SEC and All American performer at Tennessee. An All Pro and Super Bowl champion in the NFL. A journey destined for Canton, Ohio where Manning is now a first ballot Pro Football Hall of Famer.

The talented young quarterback thrilled Vol fans with this announcement back in March of 1997 saying before a packed Ray Mears Room at Thompson-Boling Arena, “I’m going to stay at the University of Tennessee.”

Manning would have been a first round pick, but not even Bill Parcells could get Peyton to leave UT for the NFL, “He was with the Jets and it really shook me up a little bit because I knew it was gonna make it a hard decision.”

And in his senior season, Manning would lead his Vols to a title in the conference he called the best in the world! A loss to Nebraska in the Orange Bowl in his final game would not sour an All American career at Tennessee where he finished 39-6 as a starter while throwing for over 11 thousand yards.

Peyton was taken number one overall by the Colts in the 1998 NFL draft and would go on to produce a career for the ages. He led Indy to eight division crowns and took the Colts all the way to the top, winning Super Bowl 41. His five MVP’s are a League record. He has been to 14 Pro Bowls, while amassing 13 4000 yard passing seasons along the way. Of his success Peyton says, “I appreciate all the coaches because to me that’s what really the game is all about. It’s the coaches and the players and those relationships.”

It hasn’t all been easy for the VFL who underwent neck surgery in 2011, and many wondered if his career was coming to an end, but Peyton was determined to fight back, even if it meant playing for another team. That team would be the Denver Broncos. On October 19, 2014 he broke Brett Favre’s record for most career touchdowns, when he threw his 509th touchdown pass in a game against the 49ers. On November 15, 2015 Manning became the sport’s all time passing yardage leader.

During a 2009 Monday night football game, Manning received the nickname, “The Sheriff,” from color commentator Jon Gruden due to his tendency to change plays at the line of scrimmage prior to the snap. Peyton has always been and remains one of the most recognizable and parodied players in the National Football League.

He’ll have a ton of support with him in Canton this weekend including his family which includes brothers Eli and Cooper, mom Olivia and dad Archie who’ll be his presenter on Sunday and who on Friday night presented Peyton with his very own gold jacket.

Also in attendance this weekend will be former Tennessee coaches Phillip Fulmer and David Cutcliffe who was instrumental in Manning’s development, even going as far to change the future Hall of Famer’s grip while at UT, " One of the things people wouldn’t have any way of knowing that I can tell you that I really don’t talk a lot about is as a freshman, we changed his grip just ever so much. When you push the tip of the ball up this way in your hand. It has a tendency to make you not draw your hand to start your motion and that motion going back is as good as it gets in the history of the game.”

Coach Cutcliffe also said this about his former star pupil, “The other thing is that I love football. I mean I love it and football will love you back. And I think it’s important that people like Peyton Manning are in the Hall of Fame, which represents the best parts of the game, and who you can become through playing the game of football.”

Also in Canton will be former teammates, contemporaries like Tom Brady and old friends like Carmen Tegano and Ray and Lucy Hand from Knoxville. Peyton returns to the UT Campus often and while there he spends time in the appropriately named Peyton Manning room which includes memorabilia and information from his accomplishments at Tennessee and all the way through his career in the NFL.

His former mentor on the UT Campus, Tegano says, ”You knew he was destined for greatness early on. The way he carried himself. You know in sports, they use the term countenance. Coaches will talk about a quarterback having countenance the linebackers etc. And he had that when he was a freshman, and you knew it. Whenever they had anything to do. Peyton turned it into a competitive thing. He always tried to win it and be first. But the one thing I remember because we had a community service program where kids had to go out in the community. And every once in a while you get a few kids that would volunteer, they would come forward and want to be involved. Well Peyton was there every day, anytime there was a community service event. He was the first one to get in line.”

Manning and long time friend Carmen Tegano at the College Baseball World Series in Omaha
Manning and long time friend Carmen Tegano at the College Baseball World Series in Omaha(Rick Russo)

As Carmen put it, the excitement this weekend centers around a culmination of all the above mentioned years, four of them spent right here in Big Orange Country. It’s not the end, but it’s a combination of all those years and all the people that will be there in Canton to celebrate a player for the ages, VFL Peyton Manning.

Be sure to watch our Peyton: Road to the Hall of Fame special report tonight at 7 p.m. on WVLT.

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