Tennessee coach Butch Jones didn’t immediately hear all the nice things that Peyton Manning said about him during the Tennessee-Alabama broadcast. That’s understandable. Jones was busy coaching the Vols. The comments, however, came up during Jones’s Monday afternoon press conference.
“There isn’t anyone who knows Tennessee football better than Peyton Manning,” Jones said of the former Tennessee quarterback, who is now in his 18th NFL season. “For Peyton Manning to say those things, that means a lot but he also sees what’s going on because he has invested a lot in our football program.”
Manning has made a habit of traveling to one game a year, usually during his team’s bye week. With some extra time off from his duties with the Denver Broncos, Manning headed to Tuscaloosa; He’s hardly a stranger.
“He’s around our players,” Jones said. “He’s been around our program for the last few years so he sees the progress that we’re making. That meant a lot.”
Manning wasn’t the only Tennessee alum in attendance on Saturday. Several former players were on the sideline, including defensive end Todd Kelly Sr., offensive lineman Trey Teague and receiver Joey Kent.
“Our former players have been outstanding. All you have to do is look at our sideline at Alabama,” Jones said. “The amount of support they provide to our coaching staff, to our players, to myself, that’s what it’s all about: one family.”
No offense meant to any of the former Vols. However, Manning was clearly the center of attention.
“He’s a great friend,” Jones said. “Anytime he can be on our sideline or in our locker room, that’s what Tennessee football is all about. You’re talking about the greatest football player or greatest quarterback of all time and he’s a Tennessee Vol.”
In case you missed it, here’s what Manning had to say about Jones:
“I’m a big believer in Butch Jones,” Manning said. “He’s got a great plan. He’s following that plan. Obviously, we’ve had a lot of injuries this year. That has made it tougher but we’ve continued to overcome those. Doing a heckuva job today staying in this ball game.”
The game was tied 7-7 at the time of the interview. Tennessee continued to stay in the game until quarterback Joshua Dobbs was sacked and fumbled deep in Tennessee territory. Manning was somewhat prophetic when he mentioned Tennessee’s many injuries on the offensive line this season. Freshman Chance Hall, who started his first game on Saturday, was the player who gave up the sack that clinched the game for the Crimson Tide.
“That’s not easy as a quarterback to have the lack of continuity,” Manning said. “All (Dobbs) has done is just play consistent football. I just really like the way he handles his business. He’s a great kid. I’m pulling hard for him…I really like Josh Dobbs. He’s had a great year.”