Peyton wins the big one and Vol fans cheer again

John Moorehouse • Feb 4, 2007 at 11:51 AM

Cut that meat! Cut that meat!

Make all the cheesy comments you want about "Peyton's Place" in history, but with Sunday's victory in Super Bowl XLI, the Indianapolis Colts quarterback probably legitimized his future spot in Canton, Ohio.

The questions have dogged Peyton Manning since his days at the University of Tennessee.

"Peyton can't win the big one."

Never mind that the Volunteers won the Southeastern Conference title in 1997 with Manning under center.

Never mind that the Colts advanced to Sunday's big game with Manning calling all the shots.

Never before have Tennessee fans so welcomed an outsider with such open arms. Keep in mind that Manning is not from here; he grew up in New Orleans and was expected by many to attend his father Archie Manning's alma mater, Ole Miss, before spurning the Rebels to ink with the Vols.

Some have called Manning's decision the most significant event in Phillip Fulmer's entire tenure as coach at Tennessee. It would be hard to argue otherwise. There's a street named after Peyton in Knoxville - appropriately dubbed "Peyton Manning Pass."

Rumors that "Casey Clausen Interception Intersection" also is in the works remain unfounded.

Hundreds of children in Northeast Tennessee and Southwest Virginia have been named after the quarterback - and last I checked, dear old dad has yet to run across too many elementary school students in Weber City, Duffield, Fort Blackmore, Dungannon or Yuma named Tee, despite his personal presence on the 1998 national championship team.

Of course, Manning didn't legitimize his legacy alone. Joseph Addai lent a very significant helping hand, garnering a double-digit reception total out of the backfield while most of the Bears' defensive attention was focused upon Marvin Harrison and Reggie Wayne. And don't forget the pick-six registered by Kelvin Hayden.

Speaking of colossal miscues, credit also must be given to Rex Grossman, a former Gators QB who looked more like Hyde than Jekyll in a disappointing Super Bowl performance. There's also that costly fumble at the end of the first half.

Hmmmm. Slick ball … wet conditions… Florida vs. Tennessee … hmmm, Grossman might as well have summoned the spirit of the Iceman. Don't look now, but I think the Irony Fairy was fluttering over the stadium in Miami well before Prince cut loose with "Purple Rain."

Although Manning came to Tennessee as an outsider and doesn't play for a team located within the borders of the Volunteer State, he remains the favorite son of those with an allegiance to Vol Nation.

Those on Rocky Top had to feel some sense of vindication - and pride - with the result of the latest Super Bowl.

It's also worth noting that Thomas Jones was the unquestioned offensive MVP for the Bears on an otherwise dismal day for the Chicago offense. Jones registered 112 yards on the ground and caught four passes for 18 to add to his yardage total.

Given Jones' noteworthy individual performance as a native of Big Stone Gap and Peyton Manning's watershed victory, it was a big night any way you slice it for sports fans in this area.

John Moorehouse is a sports writer for the Times-News. E-mail him at jmoorehouse@timesnews.net.

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