KNOXVILLE (WATE) – From game balls and posters to pictures signed “Love Peyton,” Ray Hand keeps some of his gifts from Manning on display. He says he was a father figure while Manning lived in Knoxville.
“From the time he got here, my wife and I tried to act as his parents while he was away from home and give him some comfort of being away from home. Although he didn’t need that,” said Ray Hand.
The former UT and Houston Oilers football player has been friends with Archie Manning for years. They got to know each other through playing football and remain close friends.Extended coverage: Peyton Manning
Hand says he spoke with Jim Irsay, the Colts’ owner, when Peyton Manning was recruited.
“‘You’re getting the best football player I’ve ever known, but much more than that you’re getting a much better person,’” said Hand.
He says recent accusations against Manning’s character are false.
“Anybody who’s listening to the foolishness that’s gone on whether it be the HGH or the what’s gone on over at the university with him, they don’t know Peyton Manning or they wouldn’t believe that. Because he is exactly what you want your children to grow up to be,” said Hand.
Hand says making the decision to retire from the game is difficult but he believe Peyton will find another job doing something related to football.
“I feel that someday he’ll be a part owner of an NFL football team. It is what I look forward to which is what he’ll probably end up doing,” said Hand.