By STeve Williams
I was wrong. And this time I’m glad I was wrong.
Peyton Manning is still playing football. Boy, is he ever!
In a column last February, after the Seattle Seahawks, 2½-point underdogs, overpowered Manning and the Denver Broncos 43-8 in Super Bowl XLVIII, I speculated that could be Peyton’s last game.
The thought of facing that ferocious Seattle defense again might just be enough to drive a future Hall of Fame QB like Manning, who has had four neck surgeries, into retirement. We’ll see, I wrote.
Well, uh, excuse me while I wipe one more spec of egg off my face, that didn’t happen, as you know.
I figured I better come clean after watching Peyton’s historic performance on Oct. 19.
By the way, did you notice a snippet of Rocky Top was played when NBC Sunday night football went to its first commercial break after Manning threw touchdown pass No. 509 to set a new NFL all-time record?
Manning’s big night made a lot of us Tennessee fans proud.
It made me think of how much recognition Peyton has brought to UT during his outstanding pro career.
Before the game, NBC also replayed an interview of the 38-year-old Manning commenting on the Tennessee-Ole Miss matchup from the night before. In his family, when it comes to the Rebels versus the Vols, “I’m the only Tennessee fan,” said Peyton, whose dad, Archie, and brother, Eli, both played quarterback for Ole Miss.
Shortly after the 49ers-Broncos game started, starters from both teams were introduced on the telecast as they always are. First to appear on the screen for the Denver offense was the introduction of its quarterback … “Peyton Manning, University of Tennessee.”
Those five words have to make an impression on a lot of high school prospects across America. You can’t beat promotional value like that.
Keep it up, Peyton.
I learned my lesson.
HEY COACH: The best suggestion for Butch Jones and his anemic offense I’ve heard yet is the “jailbreak.”
The sports talk radio caller explained that’s where the players break from a huddle, run quickly to get set, snap the ball and go. The defense, he said, doesn’t have time to match up or make any adjustments.
Sounds like a good idea to me. I think it would work and be fun to see. What’s Butch got to lose?
MAKING NOISE: When it comes to seeking one of the four spots in the NCAA’s first major college football playoff this season, Marshall University football is not going away quietly. Would you expect anything less from a team nicknamed the Thundering Herd?
Marshall, 7-0 and ranked No. 23 in The Associated Press poll, hired a big-time PR firm out of Los Angeles last Thursday to help with its case of making the playoff field. Good for them, even if it is a waste of time and money.
Marshall, which has produced such football standouts as Knoxville’s very own Chad Pennington, Randy Moss and Ahmad Bradshaw, won’t make the playoff field, but it will make a good point.
The Herd is stampeding toward an undefeated season and Conference USA championship. They rank second in the nation in offense behind Baylor and their quarterback, Rakeem Cato, averages over 300 total yards and three touchdowns per game.
But none of that will matter when a playoff committee of football experts picks its four finalists.
That’s why a four-team playoff is a joke. An eight-team playoff would have been much better.
LIKE OLD TIMES: Some 400 former Vols enjoyed the thrill of running through the T again prior to the Florida game this season, including South-Doyle head coach Clark Duncan and assistant coach Bobby Graham.
“It’s been 34 years since I had the opportunity to run through the T,” said Duncan via e-mail. “It brought back a lot of great memories. What was neat was I ran through a portion of the T with Coach (Johnny) Majors.”
Duncan was a UT defensive back from Erwin High. He was a Vol letterman in 1977, ‘78 and ‘80.
Graham was a clutch wide receiver for Tennessee from 1999-2001. The Statesville, N.C., product has been on Duncan’s staff for six years as receivers coach, offensive passing coordinator and safeties coach.