Butch Hannah had been a referee for over three decades before finally calling it quits after this season. Hannah worked in both college and the NFL and even officiated the 1998 SEC Championship Game between Tennessee and Mississippi State. And as expected, he has many, many stories during his tenure as an NFL referee.
One of Hannah’s stories includes former Vol and future NFL Hall of Famer Peyton Manning and something he did both on and off the field.
Hannah was officiating a game between Denver and Miami during Manning’s second-to-last season in the NFL. Hannah states he had already called back two Denver touchdowns, and the Broncos were having a rough time in the game (they would end up winning 39-36, however). Hannah says that late in the game Manning was trying to run the clock out when Manning mistimed a snap and it led to the Broncos having to run one more play.
“Peyton said something off-color to me, which was not at all like him,” Hannah says. “I told him, ‘Peyton, you’re better than that.'”
But that’s not where the story ends.
Hannah claims a package arrived on his doorstep a few weeks later, and inside it was a letter written by Manning.
“He said he wanted to apologize for his reaction to me that day against the Dolphins,” Hannah states. “Would I please accept his apology? That’s the only time that’s happened to me in all my years of officiating.”
But again, that’s not where this story ends.
Fast forward a few more months, and Manning makes a point to visit Hannah while he’s the umpire during a preseason NFL game between Denver and Seattle.
“He asks me, ‘Did you get my card?'” Hannah retells. “I said, ‘Peyton, you’ve got to let this go.’ He says, ‘You have no idea how upset I was with myself.’ That’s the kind of son Archie and Olivia raised. Pretty impressive.”
Manning retired from the NFL after the 2015 season after winning his second Super Bowl, helping the Broncos defeat the Carolina Panthers 24-10 in Super Bowl 50. Manning holds several NFL records and finished with 71,940 passing yards, 539 passing touchdowns, and 200 career wins as a starting quarterback. Manning also still holds several passing records at the University of Tennessee.