The 53rd annual Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame induction ceremony had a distinct Big Orange feel on Saturday night at the Omni Hotel.
Three former Tennessee student-athletes, Peyton Manning, Charles Davis and Kara Lawson, and a pair of former assistant football coaches, David Cutcliffe and Kippy Brown, were inducted as part of the 2019 class, while Director of Athletics Phillip Fulmer hosted the event as the current chair of the Hall of Fame Board of Directors.
All five Vols found tremendous success at the University of Tennessee. However, more impressively, each used their time on Rocky Top as a springboard for even more success in their careers in the years since.
Davis is one the NFL’s top broadcasters for Fox and the NFL Network, while Lawson has risen up the ranks as one of premier analysts for men’s and women’s basketball after an outstanding professional hoops career. Manning, of course, won five NFL MVPs and two Super Bowls, and is regarded as one of football’s all-time greats. Cutcliffe turned the Duke football program into a perennial winner as the head coach and Brown won a Super Bowl with the Seattle Seahawks as an assistant.
They each cited their time at Tennessee as the foundation for their success and pointed to the relationships they built during their time on The Hill.
“Once I was made aware of this recognition, I thought about the relationships and the friendships I made with teammates and coaches, students, members of the athletic department and the entire state of Tennessee,” Manning said. “It’s really been a very special relationship with me and the people in the state of Tennessee. I have relationships that I cherish and relationships that I still hold very dear to this day.”
Manning forged tight bonds with Fulmer, his head coach, and Cutcliffe, his quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator, during his time at Tennessee. He was especially grateful they could be in Nashville on Saturday night to share the honor with him.
“It’s very great to be with Coach Fulmer always, and he’s a very great leader for this Hall of Fame and this athletic department,” Manning said. “Coach Cutcliffe—he’s such a mentor for me. He’s my coach; he’s my friend. He kind of remained my coach when I was in the NFL. To be in with Coach Cutcliffe, it’s very special and I’m very proud.”
Davis started four years as a defensive back for the Vols, totaling 13 interceptions and helping lead the Vols to the 1985 SEC Championship. He’s most known for being one the NFL’s leading broadcasters as well as the voice of the Madden Football video game. He remains close with teammates, coaches and faculty from his time on campus.
“I’m able to stay in touch both athletically and academically because I love everything that the University of Tennessee gave me,” Davis said.
“I was so lucky at Tennessee.”
Davis formed a special connection with Tennessee’s sports information and video staffs, as well as with John Ward, the legendary /Voice of the Vols.’
“They helped get me to this point by teaching me and giving me a foundation, and all I ever wanted to do was to make them proud,” Davis said. “Mr. Ward gave me my first shot on the Vol Network on a spring game and taught me all of the things I didn’t know right from the beginning. And he continued to do that all the way through until we lost him. I will always be grateful to him and will always love him for that.”
Lawson was a four-time All-SEC First Team honoree on the court as well as a finance major that received the University’s highest honor, the Torchbearer Award. Her ascension up the broadcast ranks came as no surprise to her because she was prepared by playing for the nation’s top women’s basketball program.
“I wouldn’t be doing that without my experience at UT because there’s such a media spotlight on the program and it forced you to interact with media on a daily basis—whether its print media or electronic media,” Lawson said. “It gives you a great amount of repetitions where you can get confident and where you have the ability to have success talking to the media. Now that I’m on the other side it became very natural to me early in my broadcasting career to do that because I had been exposed to so much during my playing career at the University of Tennessee.”
Lawson, also, of course, mentioned the influence of legendary women’s basketball coach Pat Summit.
“I think playing for Pat—she challenges you in so many ways,” Lawson said. “She understood where you needed to grow and where you could get better. I worked on my weaknesses a lot at the University of Tennessee and that prepared me specifically in the communications field to be able to be a broadcaster and work in different levels of basketball.”
Joining the five inductees with Volunteer ties in the 2019 class were George Taliaferro, Bob Tillman, Kimberly Anne Valek and Patrick Willis.
Tennessee football announces 2019 fan day for Aug. 4
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Head Coach Jeremy Pruitt and the Tennessee Volunteer football team invite fans to meet the Vols inside Neyland Stadium on Sunday, Aug. 4, for ‘Fan Day,’ which will feature an open practice followed by an autograph session.
Admission and parking are free for the event.
Gate 21 will open for fans at 1:30 pm, and the open practice will begin at 2:30 pm.
The autograph session will begin at the conclusion of practice at approximately 4:30 pm.
Stations will be designated by position group on each sideline, and Pruitt will have a separate table. Fans can also take part in photo stations, enter to win contests, Kids Corner activities, and more.
Fans interested in attending the post-practice autograph session on the field will need to secure a wristband as they enter Gate 21. Wristbands will be distributed on a ‘first-come, first-served’ basis and will only be available while supplies last. A wristband will not guarantee an autograph due to time constraints. Fans attending with a wristband may start to line up for autographs beginning at 4 pm.
Concessions stands on the lower level will be open throughout the stadium, while the Official Athletic Team Store at Gate 20 will also be open for fans.
Members of the Tennessee Athletics ticket sales team will be available at Neyland Stadium for fans interested in purchasing season tickets or the Vol Pass for the upcoming football season.
Fans are also advised that if inclement weather forces practice indoors, the autograph session will be canceled.