ESPN short film pays tribute to victims of July 16 attack

Peyton Manning
Peyton Manning

Prior to Monday Night Football on ESPN, images of the Chattanooga Riverwalk and the Olgiati Bridge flashed across the television screens of millions in America.

ESPN unveiled a new "30 for 30" short film, "Chattanooga Strong," which featured interviews with families of the five servicemen fatally shot in the July 16 attack and Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning.

"When it aired on Monday night, there was a lot of great reaction," said Maura Mandt, executive producer of the video. She also is the head of the company Maggie Vision, which produced the film. "I think people really enjoyed seeing somebody of Peyton's stature and how deeply he cares about the military and the community he's involved in."

photo Peyton Manning revealed that before each of the first five games of the Broncos season, he wrote the initials of each of the victims inside his cleats.

The "30 for 30" series was created in 2009 to produce 30 sports documentaries in honor of ESPN's 30th year as a company. The series has continued throughout the years and has collaborated with to create "30 for 30" shorts, varying in length from a few minutes to half an hour.

One of the focuses of the film is Manning, a former University of Tennessee quarterback, and how he was a proponent of helping the families in the aftermath of the shooting. He worked with the Community Foundation and Sen. Bob Corker to create the Chattanooga Heroes Fund, which raised $1 million in two months for the victims' families.

"I've had a home in Chattanooga for quite some time," Manning said in the video. "And I knew that I wanted to be involved, because of my connections to Chattanooga and Tennessee and my appreciation for the military."

Manning - who in the Chattanooga area on July 16 - revealed that before each of the first five games of the Broncos season, he wrote the initials of each of the victims inside his cleats.

His teammates didn't even know that he dedicated the first part of the season to the five who died - Gunnery Sgt. Thomas Sullivan, Staff Sgt. David Wyatt, Sgt. Carson Holmquist, Lance Cpl. Squire "Skip" Wells and Navy Petty Officer Randall Smith.

The Broncos went 5-0 during those games.

When Mandt thinks about the short film, one word in particular comes to mind - admiration. She admires the victims who lost their lives, the families for opening up to them and Manning for doing his part to care for them.

"We do stories on people we admire," Mandt said. "That's really what Veterans Day is about. It's a day we're supposed to be grateful for the sacrifices people made. I hope that's what this piece elicits from people."

Contact staff writer Evan Hoopfer at or @EvanHoopfer on Twitter or 423-757-6731.

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