Tennessee football received a visit from two of its biggest legends recently. Former Volunteers Peyton Manning and Todd Helton visited Rocky Top.
They both played quarterback for Tennessee football in 1994, and both are Vols legends. But only one is actually a Tennessee football legend. Still, Peyton Manning and Todd Helton both carved out an elite legacy in Knoxville. And now they’re back.
The two UT superstars visited Rocky Top and Jeremy Pruitt to watch Tuesday workouts. Pruitt tweeted out their visit. Strength coach Craig Fitzgerald and tight end Dominick Wood-Anderson also tweeted out pictures of the visit.
Manning was in town as four incoming freshman students were set to receive his namesake scholarship award. You can see that report here on UTSports.
This is the perfect time for Manning to visit with the coaches. Given the fact that they have a wide open quarterback race when Fall camp, they could use the experience of Manning and Helton, since they went through the same thing 24 years ago.
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We all know the story of Manning backing up Helton and then taking over to launch his Hall-of-Fame career after Helton getting hurt. And we all know the story of Helton then going on to play baseball, carrying the Vols to the College World Series, before launching a potentially Hall-of-Fame caliber MLB career.
But it was actually a lot deeper than that. Manning and Helton took part in a four-person battle for starting quarterback in 1994, just like this year with Jarrett Guarantano, Keller Chryst, JT Shrout and Will McBride.
Helton was a sophomore while Manning was a high-ranking true freshman. Both were drop-back quarterbacks. They had to compete with two dual-threat quarterbacks: Branndon Stewart, another high-ranking true freshman, and fifth-year senior Jerry Colquitt.
Colquitt got the job and suffered a season-ending injury the first game. Helton’s injury came three games later, which is when things came down to Manning. It made the decision much easier for Phillip Fulmer and David Cutcliffe. While they gave both freshmen playing time, Manning eventually became the starter.
Pruitt probably can’t afford the same drama this year. The talent pool is not as deep as it was in 1994. As a result, if injuries pile up at quarterback, things could get ugly. They are already going to have a pretty rough time as it is.