Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning remains worshipped by Tennessee Volunteer fans

by Berry Tramel Published: January 26, 2014
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photo - Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning talks with reporters during a news conference Sunday, Jan. 26, 2014, in Jersey City, N.J. The Broncos are scheduled to play the Seattle Seahawks in the NFL Super Bowl XLVIII football game Sunday, Feb. 2, in East Rutherford, N.J. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)
Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning talks with reporters during a news conference Sunday, Jan. 26, 2014, in Jersey City, N.J. The Broncos are scheduled to play the Seattle Seahawks in the NFL Super Bowl XLVIII football game Sunday, Feb. 2, in East Rutherford, N.J. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

My pastor at Lakeside Church of God in Norman plans to wear a football jersey next Sunday. Pastor Brian Wade asked the flock to bring their friends on Super Bowl Sunday, wear the colors of their favorite team, he'll preach about Jesus and we'll have a chili cook-off after the service.

New-age evangelism. I'm for whatever gets the fish to bite.

Pastor Wade will be adorned in a Broncos 18 jersey. You'd have already known that had I mentioned that my pastor is from Knoxville, Tenn.

It's quite possible that no athlete has been adored by one fan base the way Vol Nation feels about Peyton Manning.

“There's a deep-seeded devotion to Peyton Manning in the state of Tennessee,” Pastor Wade said.

Pro athletes can and do break your heart. Brett Favre was a Jet and then, egads, a Viking. Albert Pujols left St. Louis.

LeBron James left Cleveland, and Kevin Durant one day could leave Oklahoma City.

But college stars die young. They are forever with the school for which they starred. And those that stay four years, and play at a high level, and return the adoration with respect and gratitude, live high on the mountain of memories. That's what Manning means in Tennessee. Rocky Top indeed.

From the thousands of Tennessee schoolkids, both boy and girl, now named Peyton, to the orange 18 jerseys you still see whenever Volunteers congregate, to the pride in voices of Tennessee fans still, 16 years after Manning's final college game, you detect there's something special about this relationship.

We really don't have anything like it in Oklahoma.

Let's see. If you combined Sam Bradford's productivity with Landry Jones' longevity (Manning made 45 career starts) and tossed in J.C. Watts' personality, you still wouldn't reach the peak of Peyton Manning, since you've also got the pro career. Manning is one of the NFL's five greatest quarterbacks ever, and that Tennessee pride gets pumped every autumn Sunday, long after Manning last wore the Volunteer orange.

Danny Orr is a Vol fan from Seymour, Tenn. All three of his sons have Manning jerseys, even though none were yet born when Manning last wore the pastel orange.

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by Berry Tramel
Columnist
Berry Tramel, a lifelong Oklahoman, sports fan and newspaper reader, joined The Oklahoman in 1991 and has served as beat writer, assistant sports editor, sports editor and columnist. Tramel grew up reading four daily newspapers — The Oklahoman,...
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