Peyton Manning says he's behind Butch Jones

Peyton Manning says he's behind Butch Jones

September 30th, 2017 by David Cobb in Sports - College
Former Tennessee quarterback Peyton Manning stands with Vols coach Butch Jones before the season opener against Georgia Tech at Atlanta's Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

Former Tennessee quarterback Peyton Manning stands with Vols...

Photo by C.B. Schmelter

KNOXVILLE — Peyton Manning is a volunteer assistant for his 6-year-old son's flag football team these days, and he said he's not worthy of the title of analyst.

"There are plenty of those out there," said Manning, who is in Knoxville this weekend to be honored for his induction to the College Football Hall of Fame.

But the legendary former Tennessee and NFL quarterback seemed to speak for most of the Volunteers' faithful Friday when he shared a few thoughts about today's game against Georgia at Neyland Stadium.

"I want nothing more than to win Saturday and kind of get the taste of Florida and UMass, maybe not as good of games as we'd like, out of our mouths," Manning said. "Beating Georgia sure would solve a lot of those problems."

The Vols (3-1, 0-1 Southeastern Conference) are searching for solid footing after a last-second loss to Florida two weeks ago and a lackluster 17-13 win over Massachusetts this past Saturday. No. 7 Georgia (4-0, 1-0), meanwhile, has emerged as the darling of the SEC East.

Manning has a relationship with the head coaches of both teams in this border rivalry. Georgia's Kirby Smart, a former Bulldogs safety, intercepted a Manning pass in Tennessee's 30-27 home win in 1995.

"He still reminds me of that from time to time," Manning said.

As for Butch Jones, Manning is a sounding board for the fifth-year Tennessee coach. Manning said he receives texts from Jones "at all hours" about football concepts and philosophies.

"I know this," Manning said, "Butch Jones wakes up every day, and all he thinks about is Tennessee football. He literally eats, sleeps and breathes it. He is all in, and I like the fact that our coach is that engaged and all in. I appreciate that about him, and I'm pulling hard for him."

Asked for his assessment of the job Jones is doing, Manning said offering an opinion would "give the impression that what I say is important or actually matters."

"I'm not that important," Manning said. "I am just all in and behind Butch Jones. I don't think I have to say that, because that's just how I believe we all should be — and behind this team."

Manning spent time with Tennessee's quarterbacks earlier this year and attended the Vols' season-opening 42-41 win over Georgia Tech at Atlanta's Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Attending more games is one of the perks of retirement for Manning, who said he has felt busier than ever since leaving the NFL after leading the Denver Broncos to a Super Bowl victory to cap the 2015 season.

In an interview with 104.5 FM The Zone in Nashville earlier this week, Manning said he has "zero interest" in being a politician after speculation by some that he might run for Chattanooga Republican Bob Corker's U.S. Senate seat, which will be open next year.

Not a politician, not a football analyst. Just a volunteer youth assistant.

And when it comes to Tennessee football?

"I'm just a huge fan," Manning said. "I pull hard. I bleed orange."

Contact David Cobb at dcobb@timesfreepress.com.