UT officials discuss Manning's legacy ahead of the Super Bowl

UT officials discuss Peyton Manning's legacy ahead of the Super Bowl

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To honor his dedication to academics, they named a classroom after Manning and awarded him the Distinguished Alumni Award in 2007. To honor his dedication to academics, they named a classroom after Manning and awarded him the Distinguished Alumni Award in 2007.
Even though Manning's school career is long over, he has continued to give back to the department he once called home. Even though Manning's school career is long over, he has continued to give back to the department he once called home.

By DREW GARDNER
6 News Reporter

KNOXVILLE (WATE) - All eyes will be on New Jersey when the Denver Broncos take on the Seattle Seahawks in the Super Bowl, and for many in East Tennessee, that will mean rooting on the University of Tennessee's own Peyton Manning.

Manning was a star at UT before heading to the NFL and made huge contributions to the football program, but what people may not know is he was also a star in the classroom.

"When he graduated from our program, he had the single highest GPA in the program," said Director of the School of Communications John Haas.

Haas was Manning's advisor at UT and met with him regularly. He recalled a call he got one summer evening during the height of Manning's popularity about an assignment he was working on weeks before it was due.

"Here was somebody who was on the cover of Sports Illustrated Magazine and on a summer evening, he's in a library with some other fellow students working on an assignment," said Haas.

To honor his dedication to academics, they named a classroom after Manning and awarded him the Distinguished Alumni Award in 2007.

Even though Manning's school career is long over, he has continued to give back to the department he once called home.

"His interest was helping students," said Haas. "He really wasn't interested in doing something that wouldn't have immediate and direct impact on the quality of the undergraduate student experience."

"When he supports the institution everybody notices. It's front page news," said Dean of Communications, Mike Wirth.

Wirth joined the Communications Department years after Manning left, but he has been lucky enough to work closely with him in recent years.

"He treats people how he wants to be treated and when you're as big a celebrity as he is that is very rare," said Wirth.

"He was the real deal," added Haas. "Flat out. Peyton Manning was the real deal."

Manning was one of few students to complete his entire degree in just three years, but he surprised everyone and stayed on to play football his fourth year and pursued a graduate degree in communications.

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