Class of 2021 College Spotlight: Peyton Manning at Tennessee



In honor of the Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 2021, we’re looking back at the collegiate careers that set the foundation for these Hall of Famers.

First is Peyton Manning, who proved he was more than just a legend’s son by gaining national fame during his four seasons at the University of Tennessee.


Peyton Manning — Tennessee Volunteers, 1994-1997

Peyton Manning’s first step into independence from his father’s shadow was opting to attend Tennessee rather than Ole Miss, where Archie Manning played.

Manning joined the Volunteers before the 1994 season and was third on the quarterback depth chart as a freshman. It took four weeks for everything to change. Through injuries to both starters ahead of him, Manning became the Volunteers’ starting quarterback. He remained the starter for the rest of his collegiate career.

His sophomore season saw a drastic improvement in performance as Manning threw for 2,954 passing yards and 22 touchdowns, earning him a sixth-place finish in Heisman Trophy voting. Tennessee finished the season ranked third in the country.

Manning took another gigantic leap in his junior year, building on the momentum and familiarity that comes with multiple seasons behind center. He finished the campaign with 3,287 passing yards and 20 touchdowns, this time finishing eighth in Heisman voting even with the improved yardage. Tennessee ended the season with a 10-2 record.

After three seasons, Manning was projected as the top pick in the 1997 NFL Draft, but the prolific passer had unfinished business in Knoxville and returned for his senior season.

The extra season didn’t hurt Manning’s draft stock. He threw for 3,819 yards and 36 touchdowns and earned Tennessee an Orange Bowl matchup with Nebraska with National Championship implications. The Volunteers lost, but Manning still rounded out a historic four-year career.

He earned several honors in his final season, including the Maxwell Award, presented to the nation’s top player. Manning fell short of the Heisman Trophy one final time as the runner-up to fellow Class of 2021 member Charles Woodson.

1998 NFL Draft

Manning’s physique and throwing ability was perfectly built for the NFL, and scouts knew it early in his collegiate career.

The Indianapolis Colts selected Manning with the No.1 overall pick in the 1998 NFL Draft, putting down the first bricks of what would become a Hall of Fame career.

Manning would play for the Colts for 14 years.

Peyton Manning’s College Accolades

  • 1997 Campbell Trophy Winner
  • 1997 Maxwell Trophy Winner
  • 1997 Consensus All-American
  • 1997 SEC Player of the Year
  • 1997 Davey O’Brien Award Winner
  • No.16 Retired at Tennessee

Tennessee Volunteers in the Pro Football Hall of Fame

  • Doug Atkins
  • Reggie White
  • Peyton Manning

Attend Manning’s Hall of Fame Enshrinement

Peyton Manning enters the Pro Football Hall of Fame this August and you can be there with an Official Ticket Package from Hall of Fame Experiences. Whether you’re a Volunteers, Colts or Broncos fan, you won’t want to miss “The Sheriff” taking the stage in Canton.


attend manning's enshrinement 


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