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Peyton Manning: A VOL for LIFE! Will He Stay or Go?

  It wasn't all that long ago that I found myself buying the Manning family a nice Italian dinner in the French Quarter in New Orleans on Sports Illustrated's dime.  It was during that period of time when we all wondered if he would leave Tennessee early for the NFL or if he would stay on one more year.  SI wanted to know too, and they asked for un-precidented access to Peyton during the weeks that the VOLS prepared to play against Florida in 1996.
  I had been a major pain to Peyton and his family as SI was trying to do a massive picture story on Peyton's lineage as Archie's boy, a true QB son of the SEC, and an almost certain future success in "The League."  
  They sent me to shoot Eli playing a high school baseball game at Isidore Newman in New Orleans.  They sent me to Mississippi to shoot the "Mayor of Oxford," Cooper Manning, who's own injury kept him from certain stardom in the NFL.  They sent me to New Orleans to shoot Peyton's trophies and press clippings on one trip, and back again to shoot him playing golf with his Dad, and yet again to shoot Peyton and Eli playing catch in the front yard of their Garden District home.  One last time they sent me there to shoot the family eating pancakes together with father and sons splitting up and sharing various parts of the Times-Picayune's sports pages as they ate.  Olivia even made me a short stack too; they were really good.
  Everyone wonders about where Peyton will go now, to which city and which team.  We are all selfish and want him back here in the Volunteer state where his very presence will help us in recruiting and make him more available to his thousands of Big Orange fans, many of whom already own plenty of Titans gear.
  In a way, it doesn't matter where he goes.  He will always call attention to his alma mater, he will always be filled with class and grace like his parents, and he will ever be known as a Volunteer.  His generosity will always be noted as he continues to give back to the institution where he already gave and received so much.  Each time I see him return to our campus, he patiently signs autographs, encourages the vertically-challenged to stay in school, and can barely take a step before someone else approaches him in awe.  And he just keeps signing away.

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  It brings me back to that dinner when no one knew what he would do about leaving UT early.  I remember pondering this as I sat across the table from Peyton and his mother.  He was looking over the menu with a frown and said simply, "Mom, what do I like here?"  I thought then what I think now about where Peyton will go.  He will circle the wagons with his brothers, his Mom and Dad, and he will look deeply inside of himself and make a great decision.  And even if that turns out to be to a city other than our Capitol, we will all simply buy new jerseys and continue to brag that his greatness began like so many before him... "by running through the 'T'" in our own Neyland Stadium.  

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