From Augst 2013 until May 2014, I studied abroad at the University of Tennessee, mainly because of it’s sports pedigree that has a reputation as one of the most storied programs in the history of college football. While studying in Tennessee I would walk through campus and hear one particular graduate’s name mentioned roughly 100 times a day, and that isn’t an embellishment. His name is Peyton Manning.
On Oct. 19, on the third down, with 3:09 left in the second quarter, Manning tossed an eight-yard pass to his treasured teammate, wide receiver Demaryius Thomas, which positioned Manning on top of the NFL record books with 509 completed touchdown passes. Brett Favre had 508.
“I want to say congratulations for breaking the touchdown record,” Favre said. “I’m not surprised. You’ve been a wonderful player and I’ve enjoyed watching you play. I’ve enjoyed competing against you. I wish you great success for the rest of the season and the rest of your career.”
We know what Manning is capable of achieving as a star quarterback, but to the University of Tennessee community, he means so much more than that. I reached out to Barrett Frazier, Student Football Equipment Manager at the University of Tennessee and family friend of Manning’s, to see what Peyton means to him, as well as the school as a whole.
“There is no better person to be an ambassador of Tennessee Football than Peyton, a man who carries himself with such poise and dignity,” Frazier said. “Not only is he someone that students look up to for his football achievements, he also provides a Peyton Manning Scholarship every year to one or two incoming freshmen that covers their entire year’s expenses. I’m honored to call him a family friend.”
Presented annually since 1998, the Peyton Manning Scholarship is given to a first-year student participating in the University of Tennessee Honors Program. The scholarship covers the fees of tuition, room and board. The grant is arranged on the basis of leadership, community service involvement and scholastic accomplishments of the student.
When I asked Frazier to tell me one thing about Manning that will always stick with him, he struggled to name just one, but was finally able to narrow it down.
“What stands out to me is his class. From his playing days at Tennessee through this very day, he has not wavered in the manner that he carries himself,” Frazier said. “Achieving as much success as he has throughout his career, he has stayed humble and never let it ‘get to his head’.” Speaking of being humble, Manning was wearing a microphone while throwing his 509 touchdown, and all he said was “yes!” with a slight fist-pump. That’s as modest as it gets.
Most spectators of the NFL deem Peyton Manning to be the best regular season quarterback of all time, but because he has only won the Super Bowl once in 2006, people hesitate to label him the greatest of all time. People prefer associating former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Joe Montana as the best quarterback to ever play the game, since he had won four Super Bowls in four appearances. Peyton Manning has one Super Bowl victory in three attempts.
When I asked Frazier to compare Manning to other star quarterbacks in the modern-day NFL, he raised the same point.
“He has been labeled as arguably the best quarterback to ever play the game of football. Depending on who you talk to, some say outright he is the best without a doubt; others will debate the topic because of his history in post-season play,” Frazier said. “He is one of, if not the most, hard working people I have ever met. His dedication to perfecting his craft is second to none. He corrects the most miniscule details in his offense to create the ‘well-oiled machine’ we see as spectators on Sundays.”
Since beginning his career in 1998 in Indianapolis, former Colts wide receiver Marvin Harrison leads the way with 112 touchdown passes from the new record holder, followed by Reggie Wayne with 67, and Dallas Clark with 44.
“Throwing touchdowns is a part of playing football,” Manning recently relayed to the media. “But I guess for me throwing touchdowns has helped teams I’ve been a part of win a lot of football games. I don’t think I’ve thrown a lot of touchdowns that didn’t mean something.”
Is Peyton Manning the greatest of all time? You be the judge.