KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Peyton Manning won’t be present at the inaugural East Tennessee Celebrity Roast of Hall of Fame coach Phillip Fulmer this evening.
At least, not in person.
Manning, who is in Louisiana for the annual Manning Passing Academy, said he would sent a video message or two that will be played at the Knoxville Convention Center where funds will be raised for the Second Harvest hunger relief charity of East Tennessee.
“I am doing a video; I put a lot of thought into it,” Manning said during his appearance in Knoxville earlier this week. “There’s been rumors that Coach Fulmer is editing some of these videos. Maybe I’ll do two. I’ll do one that’s safe down the middle, and then I’ll do a real one …”
Manning, who played for Fulmer from 1994-1997, was speaking tongue in cheek.
Fulmer’s place in college football history, however, is no joke. The 65-year-old former Tennessee offensive lineman and assistant coach was selected into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2012, his first year of eligibility.
Fulmer ran up a record of 152-52 as the Vols’ head coach, leading the program to two SEC championships, six East Division crowns and college football’s first unified (BCS) national championship in 1998.
Manning had left for the NFL by then, the first overall pick in the draft earlier that year.
But the success Manning enjoyed as Tennessee’s starting quarterback led to the successful recruitment of several players.
Manning went 39-6 as the Vols’ starting quarterback, half of those losses coming against the Florida Gators, a program he was not able to defeat.
Fulmer had his troubles beating Florida as well, going 3-4 against the Gators in the seven years leading up to his firing in 2007.
But in 2001 Fulmer got the best of Florida in a battle of top-5 ranked teams, when he led Tennessee to 34-32 upset that derailed coach Steve Spurrier’s final shot at winning a national title with the Gators.
The Vols were an 18-point underdog heading into The Swamp that day, and the victory remains arguably the program’s most impressive of the new millennium.
Tailback Travis Stephens, who rushed for 226 yards and two touchdowns in the historic upset, is scheduled to be at the Fulmer roast.
Tennessee is the SEC East Division favorite this season, and coach Butch Jones will play host to the Gators on Sept. 24 looking for the program’s first win over Florida since a 30-28 victory in 2004.
The Gators have won 11 straight in the series, including wins of 28-27 and 10-9 over Jones the last two seasons.