Tag Archives: Peyton Manning

Editorial: Super Bowl Ironies

Tennessee's Peyton Manning
Peyton Manning when he was quarterback for theTennessee Vols in 1997

Many sports writers across the country are describing Sunday’s Super Bowl XLVIII between the Denver Broncos and the Seattle Seahawks as one of the best NFL matchups in history as it will pit the league’s best offense against the best defense.

Sunday’s matchup takes place in the outdoor MetLife Stadium in New Jersey and is expected to be a classic matchup of strength vs. strength.

Seattle’s quarterback Russell Wilson, in just his second season out of the University of Wisconsin, has taken the Seahawks to their second Super Bowl berth in franchise history.

Denver’s quarterback, Peyton Manning, will be playing in his third Super Bowl.  Manning, who is in his 16th season in the pros, has a chance to become the first starting quarterback in the NFL to win the Super Bowl with multiple franchises.  He won Super Bowl XLI with the Indianapolis Colts.

This may be his third Super Bowl, but there are those in “Gator Country” who won’t let the legendary quarterback forget that there are some accomplishments that eluded him, namely that Manning never beat Florida, never won a College Football National Championship and he never won the coveted Heisman Trophy, even after choosing to stay in college and forego the 1997 NFL draft even though he was considered to be a first round draft choice.  To his credit Manning did lead the Volunteers to an SEC Championship his Senior year, though that was the same year (1997) he lost in the Swamp to the Gators 33 to 20.

Nokia Sugar Bowl
Former Gator QB Danny Wuerffel

From my audio archives, here’s the 1997 feature produced just before Peyton Manning and the Tennessee Vols  played the Florida Gators hoping for retribution in the Swamp.

Gator QB Doug Johnson
Former Gator QB Doug Johnson

 

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 Another Gator signal-caller who DID win an SEC Crown, a College Football National Championship AND a Heisman Trophy was none other than Tim Tebow.  Ironically, the Denver Broncos let Tebow go and signed free-agent Peyton Manning despite Tebow’s exciting comeback wins which took the Broncos to the NFL playoffs in 2012.

Tebow continues to be vocal about his desire to continue playing in the NFL.  But after  leaving the Broncos Tebow saw little playing time after he was traded to the New York Jets.  On April 29, 2013, the Jets released Tebow who then signed a two-year, non-guaranteed contract with New England which lasted only a little more than two months.  In late December Tebow was hired by ESPN as a college football analyst.

Tebow may not be on the field during the Super Bowl, but he’s already making headlines for a humorous television ad he will appear in during the game in which he points out how busy he is despite not having an NFL contract.  Tebow talked about the ad during  a guest appearance this past week on ABC’s Good Morning America program.

Tebow throwing
Former Gator QB Tim Tebow

http://abcnews.go.com/GMA/video/tim-tebow-shows-wild-side-super-bowl-ad-22310859

 

Tale of Three Quarterbacks: Doug Johnson, Peyton Manning and Danny Wuerffel

Tale of Three Quarterbacks     Broadcast on WUFT-FM in the Summer of 1997

When the college football season opened in the Fall of 1997, two quarterbacks from SEC football teams had big dreams.  Tennessee’s “golden boy” Peyton Manning and the University of Florida’s Doug Johnson had big shoes to fill and goals to accomplish….all in the shadow of one of the most decorated and accomplished college football players, Danny Wuerffel.  Wuerffel had moved on to the NFL after winning not only the Heisman Trophy, but also an SEC Championship and the College Football National Championship.  Donna Green-Townsend has this tale of three quarterbacks.

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Doug Johnson Says He’s Committed to Leading the Gators (1997 & 1999)

(Gator Rewind:  sports archive feature originally aired in the Spring of 1999)

t1_johnson_all_01In the spring of 1999 University of Florida QB Doug Johnson found himself in the center of debate.  After winning the National College Football Championship under the leadership of QB Danny Wuerffel, many fans were disappointed in Johnson’s new role as Wuerffel’s replacement.  In 1997 UF Head football coach Steve Spurrier suspended Johnson for the Florida vs. Auburn game for breaking team rules.  Johnson also faced criticism for continuing to play baseball with the Tampa Bay Devil Rays.  Many saw this as a lack of commitment to the football team.  Johnson also suffered a broken left fibula during Florida’s 31-10 win over Syracuse in the Orange Bowl in January of 1999.  As Donna Green-Townsend reported in this 1999 feature, Johnson said he was now prepared to show leadership on the team.

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Tennessee's Peyton Manning
Tennessee’s Peyton Manning
Gator QB Doug Johnson
Gator QB Doug Johnson

In the feature below called, Tale of Three Quarterbacks, Donna Green-Townsend explores the mood going into the November 22, 1997 game between UF and TN after Wuerffel shocked the Volunteers the year before.  Tennessee’s Peyton Manning decided to stay one more year.  UF’s Doug Johnson had to face the unique challenge of following behind Wuerffel’s big year and taking on Manning in the big game.

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Nokia Sugar Bowl
Steve Spurrier talking with QB Danny Wuerffel on the sidelines

Here’s an excerpt of Donna’s interview with Coach Steve Spurrier about UF QB Doug Johnson going into the Tennessee game in November of 1997.

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Here’s the full press conference with Spurrier before the UF-TN matchup.

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The Dream To Go Pro

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The Dream To Go Pro         (originally aired on WUFT in June 10th,1997)

Part 1

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For many Florida sports fans, the 1997 NFL will go down as one of the most memorable.  All three major universities had draft picks in the first round. Playing in the pros is a dream for many college athletes, some even forsaking a degree to follow that dream. Florida State University’s Walter Jones made that decision when he got drafted as the sixth pick by the Seattle Seahawks. The University of Miami’s Yatil Green also chose to leave early as the Dolphins first pick and Kinard Lang made that choice when picked by the Washington Redskins. And at the University of Florida wide receivers Ike Hilliard and Reidel Anthony chose to forfeit their senior year at UF to follow their pro dreams.  As Donna Green-Townsend reports, it’s a tough choice and one that worries some coaches and parents.

Part 2

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Full script of Part 1:

For many Florida sports fans the 1997 NFL draft will go down as one of the most memorable.  All three major universities had draft picks in the first round.  Playing in the pros is a dream for many college athletes.  Some even forsaking a degree to follow that dream.  Florida State University’s Walter Jones made that decision when he got drafted as the sixth pick for the Seattle Sea Hawks.  The University of Miami’s Yateel Green also chose to leave early as the Dolphins first pick.  And Kinnard Lange made that choice when picked by the Washington Redskins.  And at the University of Florida wide receivers Ike Hilliard and Reidel Anthony chose to forfeit their senior year at UF to follow their pro dreams.  It’s a tough choice and one that worries some coaches and parents.  Donna Green-Townsend prepared this report:

(nat snd of Mick Hubert….. “Wuerffel back to throw…..Hilliard…..fade up a touchdown throw to Anthony)  (fade up song of Pink Floyd’s Money song)

(Montage or voxpop of bites from John Reaves, Jeremy Foley, Lee McGriff and Danny Wuerffel) 

John Reaves, “Show me the money.  That’s what the market is nowadays and more power to ’em.”

Jeremy Foley, “Yes, money is one thing but feeling productive getting up in the morning and contributing to the lives of our kids and society or whatever have you, that’s where your degree comes in.”

Lee McGriff, “financially it’s about like hitting the lottery”

Danny Wuerffel, “It’s a big money game.  There is a lot of money’  You get money that you can’t get at any other job coming out of college for the most part.”

(MONEY SONG UP FULL AND DOWN)  Big Money, something two University of Florida football players probably considered when they made a choice between finishing college or turning pro.  And for wide receiver, Ike Hilliard,  the first round draft choice of the New York Giants and Reidel Anthony, the pick by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, that choice may have a handsome payoff:

John Reaves,  “you know both of those young men are about to become millionaires,”

John Reeves knows what Hilliard and Anthony face.  The former Gator star quarterback was a first round draft choice for the Philadelphia Eagles and played fourteen years in the pros.  Now an assistant coach at the University of South Carolina Reeves finds it hard to fault the decision to leave school early.

John Reeves,  “One of the reasons you go to school is to prepare yourself for a good job.   Well obviously the University of Florida’s helped them to do that and they’ve got a great job.  They’re going to make a lot of money.”

But for every Hilliard or Anthony there are others who may pass up a college degree only to get nothing in return.  Mike Cobb a sportswriter for the Lakeland Ledger has followed college football for 23 years.

Mike Cobb,  “In the NFL draft that was just held there were 44 underclassmen that declared for the draft, and 16 of ‘em weren’t drafted. Uh, so now they’re going to have to scrounge around and get a contract as a free agent somewhere or go out and find a job somewhere…or come up with the money to pay their way back to school and just go to school and not play sports and just be a college student.  And I doubt that most of the sixteen would do that.”

But the hard facts that less than one percent of college players ever make it to the next level pales next to the dream of every athlete to make it professionally.  University of Florida Head Basketball Coach Billy Donovan:

Billy Donovan,  “I think it’s only normal for every kid to dream.  I think one of the biggest problems and I really disagree with it is you’ve got everybody out there saying , “you’ve got a better chance of being struck by lightning than you do of  making the NBA,”  and you know that might be realistic.  But that’s all I was told growing up.  And I was told all about what I could not do and I played in the NBA.  And I played for a very short period of time.  But I reached that goal.  And I would say that 95% of the people I came into contact with when I was a youngster when I said I wanted to play in the NBA laughed in my face  or said you can’t do that.  Forget about it worry about getting your degree and all this other things.  I don’t think there’s anything wrong with having stars in your eyes.”

It’s a constant question that dogs college athletes and those who coach them.  Is it better to take a chance on the dream now or hang in there and get a degree that might provide some security later on.  FSU rising quarterback Chris Weinke knows firsthand about pursuing a professional career.  After leaving college early to play baseball for the Toronto Bluejays he discovered a harsh reality.  Now at 24 he’s come back to school to play football and more importantly to get a degree:

Chris Weinke, “The most important thing that I can tell or that I can say about the whole situation is it’s not going to last forever. Um.  I think the most important thing is to get a college degree because that’s really what’s going to help you in the long run.  And I think the average time spent in the NFL is 3 ½ to 4 years right now once you make it.  And what are you going to do when you’re 28 years old or 29 years old.  That’s the important thing and I can’t stress that enough.  And you know I think that I realize that now more than I did coming out of high school.”

But that’s an argument that may be hard to sell to a young man or woman who has the opportunity to make sometimes literally millions.  And it’s an argument that coaches and even parents might have trouble making.  Former gator standout.  Lee McGriff, who spent a couple of years in the pros  and whose son now plays on scholarship for the gators says turning down that kind of opportunity is hard.

Lee McGriff,  “Someone said if you sent your child to college and in their junior year IBM or whoever came knocking and said, ‘gee will you come to work for us now.  Here is x millions of dollars.  We will train you.  Would you send your child?  Now that doesn’t mean IBM can’t fire them five years later or anything else, but if it was another line of work and they had  the unique opportunity to leave school and make that kind of money so immediately, would you advise the to do it.  Most probably would.”

One athlete who did decide to put a hold on his pro dreams to stay in college is Tennessee’s ‘Golden Boy,’ Peyton Manning, the quarterback who turned away from a possible first pick first round draft selection and possibly millions to try and achieve collegiate goals:

Peyton Manning  “I said I wasn’t going to look back when I made my decision and I’ve certainly held true to that. ..I really enjoy this semester of school after the decision.  My decision was a unique decision and Ike Hilliard’s decision to leave was totally different than mine I think.   I never fault anybody for leaving early.  It’s a personal decision and my decision to stay was what I wanted to do.  I wasn’t making a statement for what people should do,  I was doing what I wanted to do, although I certainly don’t mind being a ambassador for college football.”

At her home in Patterson, Louisiana, Ike Hilliard’s mother, Doris Francis, says she hopes her son will follow in the footsteps of   former gator running back and Dallas Cowboy football star Emmitt Smith who came back to complete his collegiate goals.

Francis,  “I hope so.  I hope he does.  He told me he said, “momma, I can always go back to school and I just said okay I just hope you do, but like I say, that’ll be his decision.  His mom, I don’t make those decisions, but I’m hoping he decides to go back and get his degree.”

But it’s the players themselves who finally decide and even when parents and coaches tell them the cold, hard facts that message may not have much effect.    1996 Heisman Trophy Winner Danny Wuerffel, himself a fourth round draft choice for the New Orleans Saints says each player has to face a reality check himself:

Wuerffel, “It’s a good job, but there are so many factors you can’t control with injuries and things like that, that it’s kind of like building on not a very solid foundation.  I think the guys that really understand the things that last in life, are the people that really you know at least hopefully in the beginning are serious about their education, but so often it takes people you know, as humans we have to learn it the hard way and you get guys who go give it a shot and don’t make it and end up back at the university to finish up.” soc

 

 

 

 

Peyton Manning Reflects On His Decision to Delay NFL Dreams and Play College Football One More Year

Tennessee's Peyton Manning
Tennessee’s Peyton Manning

Before the Denver Broncos, and before the Indianapolis Colts, Quarterback Peyton Manning was known as “Tennessee’s Golden Boy.”  In 1997 many sportswriters predicted Manning would have made millions if he had left the University of Tennessee and gone into the NFL draft.  But Manning had other plans.  He wanted one more year of college football.  Ironically, he never beat Florida while in college, never won a national championship and he didn’t win the Heisman Trophy.  But he continues to be thought of as one of the best college and professional football players in sports history.  Just before the 1997 football season Manning talked with Donna Green-Townsend about his decision to play one more year of college football.  He also weighed in on the decision of other college players to leave school early without earning their degrees to follow their pro dreams like Ike Hilliard and Reidel Anthony at the University of Florida. (From my audio archives:  Original unedited interview in May of 1997)

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