Almost 25 years have passed since Peyton Manning last stepped on in a University of Tennessee classroom. Earlier this week, he returned, more or less.
The former Broncos quarterback made a surprise appearance in a UT online class, with Professor John Haas introducing him first as "Mr. Thompson,quot; before punishing him for being late for class. Manning apologized and confessed that he had not gone to class since 1996 or '97, then gave words of encouragement to students who were unable to attend classes on campus due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The university recorded Manning's cameo and posted it on his YouTube channel:
"I realize this is probably not the ideal way you guys were hoping to spend your senior year," said Manning. “I just encourage you to stay positive, keep working the way you are, and try to take some of the extra time you have to accomplish something else or help someone who needs it. There are many people who suffer during this time.
"Be grateful for what you have and know that the University of Tennessee is proud of you and will support you in any way it can, and Dr. Haas and his department will do the same."
Once recognized, the students received Manning's class shock with smiles and laughter, though at least one expressed slight frustration.
"Some of us didn't even put on makeup this morning," said one student.