Dear Peyton Manning

Many of you know that I went to the University of Tennessee for both my undergraduate and graduate work many moons ago. Some of my dearest friends I made during those college years I still call friend today, some 18 years later. Some know the story of how Tennessee came into the picture as a college for me to consider, but most don’t. Today, I wanted to share this letter because it seemed fitting given that the person it is to is being inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame.


Dear Mr. Manning,

I could’ve called you Peyton I guess but first of all my momma taught me better and second of all we aren’t that acquainted for me to use your first name. Although I have to admit, I have yelled it a time or two on some Sundays over the years. Many years ago, almost two decades ago (how are we that old?) this small town girl was looking at the possibility of going to college after high school. I was only a sophomore at the time but with an older sister already through college the path was set that I should be considering it as well.

My mom was pretty insistent that I would head to college but she never pushed a certain school on me, only that I weigh options available. So I started looking around at colleges outside of my home state of Tennessee. This Tennessee born and bred girl wanted as far away from the state as she could muster, giving considerable weight to both the University of Maine and Illinois Wesleyan for college. I used the guise of good teacher prep programs at these two institutions, but frankly I just wanted away from the small town I lived in.

screen-shot-2015-01-15-at-8-47-51-pmOne day I came home from school, and happened to catch a press conference going on for this guy in college. It was decision day on whether he was going to return to school for his senior year or opt out for the professional league. I was intrigued by this, as a high school athlete myself (but no where near collegiate level play) because I was seeing the money awaiting this guy. It was a lot from predictions and I wouldn’t have blamed him one bit, and he was on track to graduate in three years anyway. But that’s where you proved us all wrong didn’t you? You showed us that it wasn’t about the money or the prestige of it all. It was about your character and your heart for the game and the University of Tennessee.

I remember thinking, “There must be something pretty great about UT for a guy to want to stick around there.” It also had me thinking that a guy not much older than me took wise counsel and weighed that against his own beliefs and character to decide to stay in college. I became a fan of you in that moment too, because that’s a hefty decision to make at 21 years of age.

Several years later, after cheering you on in the pros as a rookie I would be working in the student-athlete center one summer and meet you by chance. You had come to award a scholarship you had established, not in athletics but in the department you had majored in. I stood silent and wild-eyed at the guy who had impacted my decision to check out my state’s flagship university, and ultimately become a fellow Vol. You shook my hand and thanked all of us student workers for the time we put in helping student-athletes with being students first.

I think back on all of this as I write this because I wasn’t looking at UT for my education until that moment, and I know for a fact I would not be sitting where I am today in Nashville if it wasn’t for all of those steps that followed. I wouldn’t be able to call so many amazing people friends, nor would I have such great memories of time spent on campus at the University of Tennessee. But it started with giving thought to a 21 year old’s decision to stay at a university. It started with you.

So thank you Mr. Manning for an influence you didn’t know you had on a 15 year old girl from East Tennessee twenty years ago. Congratulations on an excellent collegiate career in the classroom and the football field. You impacted so many and inspired a generation as well.

Sincerely,

A fellow Vol for life

Beast Mode (or my article on Peyton Manning today)

Yesterday I watched with nervousness as the Denver Broncos narrowly beat the San Diego Chargers in the AFC Playoffs. If you’re new around these parts or don’t know me very well, I love football. and baseball. and college basketball. and tennis. But hockey? You can keep it.

I am also a huge Broncos fan (and loathe the Chargers…because Philip Rivers, that’s why). So why does this all matter? Well first off, the Chargers have been a thorn in the Broncos side for a while…and in Peyton Manning since his days with the Colts, especially in the playoffs. Secondly, because I knew this article was getting published today over on Single Roots and I really didn’t want to be a jinx. Yes, I am serious. We sports fans have weird superstitions and such…but it’d only be weird if they didn’t work.

I am talking about passion, living it out, and how you can be your own Peyton Manning in that. So go give it a read, and then continue reading below…

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Let me add a little something if you are coming from Single Roots on over here about the column this week…after the game yesterday the reporter grabbed Peyton as he headed off to the locker room and began the barrage of questions. Her last one? “So let me be the first to ask about Manning vs. Brady next week.” Peyton’s response was such a nod to this article I couldn’t have made it up if I tried. “Well first off it’s Broncos vs. Patriots, and second we’ll start work on that tomorrow. Right now, we’re going to go enjoy this victory.”

So when you do start hitting those milestones, those markers in living out your passion, don’t forget to celebrate as a team. Take a moment to enjoy the moment with those around you…and know you aren’t alone when you go up against the next opponent.

Top Five Friday, the College Football Edition

The other night at dinner, The Dude and I got into a discussion of who our favorite players were in various sports and for various teams. Being a UT alum (twice over) and with him being a huge fan of UT, it inevitably rolled back around to our Vols. So I thought, in honor of National College Colors Day and it being the first BIG ORANGE FRIDAY I’d talk about my top five favorite UT players.

Property of Sara Stacy
Property of Sara Stacy

1. Peyton Manning

As if that wasn’t totes obvs. I mean seriously, do I have to explain this one? He’s a legend. LEGEND. and I got to meet him once. He shook my hand. I stood there dumbstruck as a college junior, with my mouth gaping open. I skipped tennis practice in high school to watch his press conference announcing he was staying at UT for his Senior year.

Photo by Sara Stacy
Photo by Sara Stacy

2. Will OverstreetMost of you might not have heard of him. Great defensive end for UT for four years. Drafted by the Falcons, where he played through several injury-plagued years. This guy was a beast on the field. Incredibly intelligent student as well, and incredibly nice. I not-so-secretly had a crush on him for about three years straight. He worked on the All Vol Call-in show for a while during pre-game and then the Sunday morning show on the local news station as a recap and analysis person.

3. Raynoch Thompson  Dude was insanely talented and an amazing player. You cannot get a better defensive player than him these days. He was a force on the field, and one that many teams realigned their offenses to play around.

4. Jeff Hall Yes he was the kicker. But man you couldn’t get a better kicker than Jeff Hall on a team. He led FCA and really led on the team in ways that a special teams player just didn’t normally do. I got to hear him speak at FCA my freshmen year and was just blown away at his testimony and maturity in his faith as he walked it daily in a pretty substantial spotlight.

5. Jason Witten I had to give a shout out to my hometown boy! It is crazy to me to think Jason and I are the same age, and he’s a starting tight end for the Dallas Cowboys. Jason used to pick on me in class, as we had almost all of them together since we were in the same major and the same year at UT. He stepped in between me and Kevin Burnett on the golf course when we got in a shouting match over garbage at an event we were running for class. I watched him encourage and uplift, while also being a down-to-earth guy we all knew him to be. He played with great heart and devotion and I know he is enjoying the fruits of his labor and God’s blessings now.

Now, I am heading off to enjoy a football weekend in Knoxville…who will you be rooting on this weekend? Football not your thing, what are your plans?

Top Five Birthday Gift Requests

So my birthday is a week and a half away. I get excited for birthdays to the point of uncontrollable giddiness. I think they are special, each person has one, and they should be rightfully celebrated. Parties were thrown as a kid, and inevitably gifts were given that maybe weren’t what I wanted at the time. Amazon now has the lovely wish list in which you can tell people what you want, without really making a big deal about it. I use that sucker like crazy. I have lists of varying natures that include vinyl albums I’m stockpiling for when I come into much money and can afford to buy them all to professional development books for my job to movies I don’t own yet.

This Friday, as we do every Friday, thanks to Annie over at annieblogs.com for the idea, there’s  a run down of my favorite things. Today’s include one realistic birthday gift preference, and four preposterous ones. I’ll let you decide which is which.

1. The 365 Journal from Kikki-K. It’s awesome. I’m in love with it, and I don’t even own it. I love journaling and I love the blog of ideas for each day’s entry. Check out the journal here and the blog here for inspiration.

2. The Autograph. For now three years, my sister has requested an autograph photo from Peter Alexander for my birthday and/or Christmas gift. And for three years I have not gotten one. The first time she told me about it, I laughed and thought “How sweet of my sister!” You see, I have a nerdish crush on news correspondents. Secretly that’s what I wanted to be when I grew up. Very Rory Gilmore in nature and so I love watching news channels. I recall seeing Peter on the Today Show first, and thinking, “Well he’s adorable, funny, and sharing news coverage. I enjoy him.” He quickly became a favorite, and thus my sister’s pursuance of an autograph photo of him for my birthday. So this year Peter Alexander, I’m calling your bluff and asking you to ante up said autograph photo.

3. Dinner, Top Chef Style. Some of you may know my penchant for Top Chef on Bravo. In April I took a long weekend trip to Chicago with a friend and had the opportunity to eat at a couple of former cheftestant restaurants. I have been to two of Richard Blais’s places in Atlanta and Birmingham. This was a different caliber. We had reservations three months in advance, and barely got in. So I have now checked off three cheftestants from my list of restaurants I want to try (and trust me if you are ever in Chicago, have reservations at The Girl and the Goat and Sable. You’ll be glad you did). So my next birthday gift is a private dinner prepared by Hosea Rosenburg in Denver. He runs Blackbelly Catering and pop-up dinners. He is a favorite chef of mine, and I am constantly following his work. (Foodie geek moment, I commented something on Twitter and he responded…yes I’m that big of nerd) So my birthday dinner would be a menu set up by them and prepared in a farmhouse style setting in the Denver area.

4. Front Row for Kelly Clarkson. Yes, I am a Kelly fan. I have been since the inception of American Idol. If I could have a girl crush, it would be her. Her and Natalie Portman. She’s been in concert a couple of times in the area, but I haven’t been able to go due to other conflicts. This woman is the epitome of what self-confidence looks like for a woman. She is strong, and yet able to say she’s vulnerable. I love that. I love her music. It doesn’t hide the fact it’s more pop than anything else, and that is a-okay with me. I’d want to be front row only because I get distracted at concerts by other attendees and the front is the only place I don’t. I’m just owning the fact I have concert ADD slightly.

5. A Different Shade of Blue. With Peyton Manning now a Bronco, my entire Colt collection of paraphernalia needs to be converted. But most of all, I want to see him play in person. So my final birthday request is for a trip to Denver (which could include #3 as well) to see the Broncos play…and meet Peyton of course. After all this is my birthday wish.