Meeting Peyton Manning

Peyton Manning is one of my idols. I realize that puts me on the bandwagon with about a million people. But over the summer, I had the opportunity to meet him.

No sweat. Or so I thought.

Peyton Manning
“It’s a please-ure to meet you.” Caught on film.

We were invited for an informal scholarship award ceremony inside the Peyton Manning Locker Complex in Neyland Stadium . (And after you finish this, you can read about that at here if you want to.) About 5 minutes before the event started, I realized I had left my camera back in the car. At UT every street is a hill, and parking is always sparse and far away. So I walked — well, trotted — 79 blocks back to the car and got the camera. On my way back, I had worked myself into a tizzy thinking the thing was probably already over, and His Manning-ness was back on a plane to Denver. So I turned that trot into a full-on sprint.

I had on an orange shirt; this is pertinent because orange is the color that hates moisture the most. Sweat sends orange into a fiery rage. When I got back, I was afraid to look down for fear that I was dripping orange sweat like a giant melting Creamsicle. Thank God I only bleed orange.

Peyton entered the room like any normal person would — shaking hands and making small talk from person to person. When he got to me, I wanted so desperately to be cool. But instead, I stood this awkward distance of probably 42 inches away from him. To reach his hand I had to contort into this awkward bow, like I was welcoming him to a traditional tea ceremony, or something.

It gets worse.

When he said, “Hi, I’m Peyton Manning,” I responded:

“It’s a please-ure to meet you.”

“Please-ure” rhymes with seizure, which is what I thought I was going to have in that one nano-second when the language that I have been speaking pretty dang effortlessly for nearly 50 years completely left my brain. Goo-goo, gah-gah, blah-blah, blah. Each of my teeth was suddenly wearing  a little sock.

Please-ure.

I’m a little surprised I didn’t tack on “wouldn’t want to be ya” just for good measure.

Thank God he didn’t ask me my name.

Instead I think he gave me a look like he does when he misses on 3rd and 8. You know: smirking, ripping the chin strap, slightly shaking his head, looking disgustedly at the Jumbo-tron replay, devising how to keep it from happening again.

Shortly, though, I was able to string together a few short sentences. Call it adjusting to the speed of the game, as rookie football players say. And after a few minutes, he escorted our group out onto Shields-Watkins field, and I saw him look up at the 100,000 seats. I watched him take it all in. I truly think he was back in orange for a moment, with Rocky Top blaring and the beaten-down opponent slumping back to the visitors’ locker room.

He truly seemed glad to be there — humbled, and maybe even a little awestruck at the whole spectacle.

Maybe it was a please-ure for him to be back. I hope so.

About Barry Currin

Barry tries to be funny and poignant, and he's usually satisfied when he succeeds with one or the other. (Being both is awesome. And sometimes that happens.) Email him: currin01@gmail.com

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