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.


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.

A few other things banned by the NFL

Well, “Sports Illustrated” sure stirred up a hornet’s nest this week when they published the story that Ray Lewis used deer antler spray to help heal his torn triceps muscle. You may not know the story isn’t entirely new. Yahoo! Sports site first made the connection between Lewis and the sellers of the spray in 2011. If you promise to come back and finish this blog, you can see that story here: The story doesn’t even mention that Lewis was seen rubbing his helmet on the goalpost to remove the velvet.

Isn’t it convenient that we’ve forgotten that Ray turned state’s evidence in Atlanta 13 years ago to avoid a murder rap? But I digress.

Here are some other things that the NFL bans:

* Helium: if a QB sucks enough before he barks out the signals, his voice can only be heard by the younger players.

* Land mines: “He’s to the 10… the 5…” BOOM! “Oh, the humanity!… And that’s why the Steelers haven’t lost a home game in 3 years. We’ll be back after the grounds crew fills in that nasty crater.”

* Motorcycles. Because you couldn’t ever catch anybody on a motorcycle.

* AK-47′s. Why? See #9. (Have you ever seen an NRA sponsorship in an NFL stadium? That’s why.)

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* Girls. They’re just too delicate. Couldn’t you imagine Brent Musberger going on about it. “She’s the hottest outside linebacker in the NFL.”

* Cheetahs. Also too fast. On the other hand, they fumble too much.

With this knowledge you will not be caught off guard by the next big sports scandal. Until it happens,

Give me 20, Slackers!
Coach Billy Jack Hoover
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