April 12, 2013
By Brian Rice
KNOXVILLE, Tenn.-- As a Super Bowl-winning quarterback and pitchman for various corporate partners, Peyton Manning has become one of the most recognizable sports figures in the world.
But as a two-time alumni and multi-time honoree, the pitches he makes as a public face of his school - where he just so happened to have played a little football - hold a place in his heart as special as the time he spent here.
"Tennessee had such a huge impact on my life," Manning said while in town as the keynote speaker at the 2013 Tennessee Football Coaches' Clinic. "I had a wonderful four years here at the University of Tennessee. A big reason why I stayed here my senior year is I really wanted one more year of college experience. Obviously there's been a lot of changes from the time since I've been gone. But it's still the University of Tennessee and it's still Volunteer pride and I'm a huge fan of those."
Tennessee head coach Butch Jones said having Manning back as the draw for his inaugural chance to connect on-campus with high school coaches from around the region was a no-brainer.
"Peyton means so much to us and our football program, recruiting and everything we're doing here as we lay it brick by brick," Jones said. "We love him and we're very proud of him."
Jones and Manning posed for photos with a pair of literal bricks, a photo op that Jones has encouraged fans and alumni from all over the country to engage in and to send those photos along to his ever-popular Twitter account. The pair spent over an hour together taking football on Thursday night before Manning addressed the Volunteer team Friday morning and took questions from the players.
"I think it's an exciting time for Tennessee Football," Manning said of Jones' philosophy, including the "Brick by Brick" campaign. "People need to stay committed to it, stay patient with it because it's not going to happen overnight. This is a job he wanted and he wants to stay and wants to retire here. Those are the type of people we want here at Tennessee, people that are all in Tennessee Vol, and I can tell he is that, and that's really encouraging."
Manning and Jones first connected in December, before Jones was even a candidate for the Tennessee job. But Manning wanted to make it very clear that a call at the prompting of his boss, John Elway, on the positive attributes of the state of Colorado related to another search wasn't a recruiting pitch for another school.
"When the boss asks you to make a phone call, you have to make a phone call," Manning said of Elway's request on behalf of a friend involved in the search at the University of Colorado. "I recruit for one school and one school only, the University of Tennessee. Once, obviously Butch was in consideration for the University of Tennessee, I really feel we got lucky. I really feel we were fortunate to land Butch Jones. I really do. I think he's going to be a huge difference for this program and I think we're fortunate to have him. I'm glad you asked me that because I'm a Tennessee Vol all the way, I can assure you."