“It’s a time of reflection for me, for how thankful I am for all of the people who have been a part of this journey,” Manning said. “It’s not a game or a throw that really jumps out to me that I think about. I think about the relationships with the fans, teammates, coaches, support staff and friends. Certainly, my time in Knoxville was a huge part of it.
“Throughout my entire career, I was always reminded of where I came from. When my dad was playing, in the program I always used to check to be sure that all the words were correct. … Fast forward 20 something years later, and I am in the NFL. I always checked it—whether I was an Indianapolis Colt or a Denver Bronco—and it always said ‘quarterback, 18, Peyton Manning, 6-5, 225 or 230 and it always said from the University of Tennessee, New Orleans, Louisiana.’ I always carried those places with me. Even though it’s the Pro Football Hall of Fame, I truly go in as a Colt, Bronco, Tennessee Volunteer and a Newman School graduate from New Orleans.”
Manning and the Class of 2021 will be formally enshrined on Aug. 8 in Canton, Ohio. He becomes the third Volunteer all-time to earn to enter the Pro Football Hall of Fame, joining defensive linemen Reggie White (2006) and Doug Atkins (1982).
“Peyton Manning is one of the greatest players in NFL and college football history,” Phillip Fulmer, who coached Manning for his four years at Tennessee, said. “His fantastic work ethic, desire to prepare, intelligence, recall, recognition and in-the-moment reaction to defensive schemes or techniques are well documented. Those are all Hall of Fame traits.
“However, Peyton’s greatest gift may have been his ability to instill confidence in the locker room because of all those amazing traits. He appreciated his teammates and knew he could not be successful without them. He had the ability to lead, encourage and—when needed—push his teammates to perform at their best. Others followed his lead on the path to success. It is a special characteristic of a great team when your best player is also your hardest worker.”
The No. 1 overall pick in the 1998 NFL Draft, Manning established himself as one of the greatest players in NFL history, playing for the Indianapolis Colts for 13 seasons and the Denver Broncos for four. He remains the only player in NFL annals to win MVP honors five times and is tied for the most Pro Bowl selections with 14. In addition, he was a seven-time first-team All-Pro selection, Super Bowl XLI MVP, 2015 Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year, 2012 NFL Comeback Player of the Year, 2013 Sports Illustrated Sportsman of the Year, a member of the 2000s NFL All-Decade Team and one of the 10 quarterbacks selected for the NFL 100th Anniversary All-Time Team.
Manning is currently the only starting quarterback in NFL history to win a Super Bowl with multiple franchises. Statistically, he still holds the NFL record for 4,000-yard passing seasons (14), single-season passing yards (5,477 in 2013) and single-season touchdown passes (55 in 2013).
A 1997 consensus First-Team All-American, Manning guided Tennessee to four consecutive bowl games, three straight top 10 national rankings and the 1997 Southeastern Conference championship as he captured MVP honors. The 1997 Heisman Trophy runner-up, he claimed the Maxwell Award, Davey O’Brien Award, Sullivan Award, Campbell Trophy and Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award during his senior campaign.
Manning holds school records for wins by a starting quarterback (39), passing yards (11,201), touchdown passes (89), total touchdowns (101, 89 passing/12 rushing), passing attempts (1,381), completions (863), completion percentage (62.5) and career 300-yard games (18).
A three-time Academic All-American, Manning earned his degree from UT in speech communication in 1997. He was the top graduate in his major.
Manning was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2017, the University of Tennessee Athletics Hall of Fame in 2016 and the state of Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame in 2019. Each year, a group of UT students is named Manning Scholars, the winners of competitive scholarships Manning endowed beginning in 1998.
“We will keep your legacy alive forever — not only as the player you were, the leader you were, the teammate you were, but frankly as the man that you were.”
The moment Peyton Manning became a member of the @ProFootballHOF:
— Denver Broncos (@Broncos) February 7, 2021