File this one under: Things that should have happened long before now.
I remember right after Peyton Manning graduated from UT, there was a lot of debate about what should be done to honor him. And let's face it--the man deserves to be honored. Not only a great quarterback and football player, but also a great ambassador and representative of all that can be right and good in the world of college athletics. I mean, the man gave up millions and being an assured first-pick in the draft to come back for his senior season with the Vols. And do NOT get me started on the stupidity that was the Hesiman voting that year. It has forever tainted this award in my mind. The Heisman is meaningless at this point since the criteria for voting change at the whim of the voters (aka ESPN).
But back to my original point. After Peyton graduated, there was a great deal of debate about what should be done to honor him for his great career at UT. One of the ideas bandied about and championed a lot by then SportsTalk host Mike Keith was retiring Peyton's number. Alas, UT didn't agree and instead reserved Peyton's number for "deserving" and "special" players. Which every time I see Rick Clausen wearing Peyton's number I go--how in the hell is Rick Clausen special? (Note for future reference: No member of the Clausen family should EVER get to wear any number worn by Peyton at any time).
Well, finally the news comes this morning
that UT is going to retire three numbers this year--Peyton's, Reggie White's and Doug Atkin's. This is a move I wholeheartedly applaud and as I said--it should have been done way before now.
Of course, driving into work I made the mistake of tuning into 104.5 the Zone's morning show (Our motto: Bitter Vandy fans get to talk first). I really should remember that they are the flagship station for Vandy and so they have to try and run up some anti-UT sentiment somehow by questioning if Peyton's number should be retired. Then, you invariably get the four or five bitter Vandy fans who have the number on speed dial who deride Manning, UT and that he "couldn't win the big game." OK, I admit that Peyton never did beat Florida. I'll give you that..but he owned Bama and his numbers and winning percentage speak for themselves. Peyton was also a leader off the field, sending the right message about what is good about college athletics when he chose to forego millions in the NFL and stay for his senior season. Peyton Manning is a great ambassador for college football and UT, the likes of which few, if any schools will ever see again. Manning helped UT go to the next level--a level we've stayed at for close to a decade. I can see how all this positive influence and success would be hard to swallow for fans of other schools as they watch their schools mired in mediocrity and caught by the NCAA in scandal after scandal.
But let me say this again--Peyton Manning is one of the best to ever play the game. And his number is more than worthy of retirement.
End of story.
posted by Michael Hickerson at 8/23/2005 07:46:00 AM