VFL Peyton Manning. Photo by Anne Newman/RTI.
For those who are glued to Tennessee football through thick and thin, you might be considerably familiar with the video of Peyton Manning leading the Pride of the Southland Marching Band.
While the visual is easy to remember for many fans, especially after Manning and former quarterback Hendon Hooker both did so during the 2022 season (more on that later), the story of how it happened is possibly a little more unknown and a little more wacky that one might suspect.
After Tennessee defeated Alabama by a score of 38-21 in Birmingham, AL in 1997, Manning rose to the top of the conductor’s ladder and led the band in the postgame celebration. Manning recently described the lead-up to the moment in a clip from Tennessee Athletics’ new podcast titled Everything Orange. The first guest? None other than University of Tennessee professor Peyton Manning.
“It kind of started in 1995 when we went down to Alabama and beat Alabama in Birmingham,” Manning recalled. “And I remember I had to do an interview after the game.”
As the clip plays, footage from the 1995 postgame interview emerges as Peyton says, “I kind of want to go over there! See, I want to have a little fun,” as he pointed over to his teammates celebrating.
“I kind of missed all of the celebration,” Manning said. “All my teammates are talking about, ‘Man, how cool was that? We were hanging out with the fans in the stands and hanging out with the band. It was awesome!’ I’m like, ‘I missed it! I was doing some interview!’”
During his final season in 1997, two years after the infamous missed celebration, Manning would receive his chance again.
“Two years later we went back and we won the game again,” Manning said. “And I’m like, ‘I’m not missing this celebration.’ So I was kind of jogging over to the student section where most of the Tennessee were. And I remember somebody saying, ‘Hey, do you want to go lead the band?’ And I was like, ‘Sure!’”
The rest (for the moment) was history.
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Fast forward all the way to the 2022 football season. Prior to the game against Alabama on the Third Saturday of October, Manning once again led the Pride of the Southland in Rocky Top – this time, though, with two big differences.
Manning didn’t lead the band on the field last season but instead did so alongside business partner and former teammate Pat McAfee on the College GameDay set.
Then, just a few months later, after Tennessee’s final home game of the season against Missouri, former Tennessee quarterback Hendon Hooker climbed the steps to lead the band in what would be his final full game as a Tennessee Volunteer.
Check out the clip from Manning and the first episode of Everything Orange – a podcast from Tennessee Athletics below.
Episode 1 of 𝗘𝘃𝗲𝗿𝘆𝘁𝗵𝗶𝗻𝗴 𝗢𝗿𝗮𝗻𝗴𝗲 🟠 is now available!
First guest ➡️ The Sheriff
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…or wherever you get your podcasts! pic.twitter.com/7vNKI1JzIJ
— Tennessee Football (@Vol_Football) August 24, 2023