Peyton Manning is back in Knoxville for a historic weekend.
And he started it where it all began. At Copper Cellar with his dad and Phil Fulmer.
“Here we are these 23 years later going to the same place and telling a lot of the same stories,” Manning told a small group of reporters on Friday.
Those stories are what’s special to Manning when he thinks about his time in Knoxville.
This is a special weekend for the former Tennessee quarterback, who will become the 23rd Vol to be inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame. When he spoke to the media on Friday, he raved about the old teammates and coaches he invited to join him for the Georgia game this weekend.
He said he’s as excited about seeing old friends as he is joining the Hall of Fame.
“It’s fun for me to see these people that have been a part of my football life. I never believed in looking back and going down memory lane when I was playing. But since I stopped playing, I have taken a little time to reflect,” Manning said.
Peyton joins his dad, Ole Miss legend Archie Manning, in the College Football Hall of Fame. Archie will present Peyton with his Hall of Fame plaque at halftime of the Georgia game. Peyton said he’s not quite prepared for the emotions that will bring.
But he’s honored to not only join his dad, but also a large contingent of former Vols.
Since he got to Knoxville, Peyton has been fascinated with Tennessee’s rich history.
“I was just fascinated with the history of Tennessee football when I got here,” Manning stated. “At the end of the indoor complex, all the All-Americans and great teams were right there on the wall. So you saw them everyday.”
Fast forward to the present, and Manning enjoys being a fan again.
But he won’t analyze Tennessee football. He doesn’t see that as his role.
In fact, he doesn’t think he’s even important enough to have an opinion on the current state of Tennessee football.
“I’m not worthy of that title,” he said. “Making me give an update on how (Butch Jones) is doing would give the impression that I actually matter. And I’m not that important. I am just all in and behind Butch Jones. And I don’t think I have to say that, because that’s just how I believe we all should be.”
So while he may not be analyzing Tennessee football, he is heavily involved with one team.
“I’m a volunteer assistant to a coach on my kid’s flag football team. There’s a lot of pressure there. Last year he asked me to be a coach, and I said I can’t do it because I watched your team and you don’t have any pass plays. I can’t be on a team that has no pass plays. So we got more pass plays in this year,” he said.
Retired life has been good to Manning, who says he’s busier now than he was during his playing days. He can come to three or four Tennessee games every year, and he’s involved with his kids’ teams.
Manning is just happy to be a fan. Right now, that’s all that matters to him.