When Tamika Catchings joined the Tennessee Lady Vols back in 1997, Peyton Manning was entering his senior year with the Tennessee football program. Catchings’ hype as a freshman was similar to Manning’s hype back in 1994.
Both enjoyed their best seasons on Rocky Top that year. Manning should have won the Heisman but led the Vols to an 11-2 record and an SEC Championship, their first in seven years. It was a season for the ages.
Meanwhile, Tamika Catchings joined Chamique Holdsclaw, Semeka Randall and current Lady Vols head coach Kellie Harper to lead the program to the most impressive season in women’s basketball history. Pat Summitt’s team went 39-0 and won its third straight national title.
Of course, Manning went on to the NFL, getting drafted by the Indianapolis Colts. Four years later, Catchings and him would reunite in Indianapolis, as she was selected by the Indiana Fever. Together, two former Vols would take over that state.
The connection between these two legends has been cemented this year. Earlier this month, Manning was officially induced into the NFL Hall of Fame, something we wrote about here. It just happens to be the same year Catchings was inducted.
This past weekend, Catchings was inducted into the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame in Knoxville, Tenn. Saturday night. She is part of a class that includes legendary NBA commissioner David Stern. Here is her full acceptance speech.
Like Manning with the Colts, Catchings won a championship with the Fever. They were both MVPs of their respective championship outings, as Manning was Super Bowl MVP in 2006-07 and Catchings was 2012 WNBA Finals MVP. Catchings also captured the 2011 regular season MVP, but her calling card was defense, as she was five times the WNBA Defensive Player of the Year.
Anyway, with her induction coming two weeks after Manning’s, the two are forever connected, dating back to that one year they shared at UT together. Tamika Catchings and Peyton are two of the greatest ambassadors in school history, and everybody owes a major congratulations to them for earning their spots in the Hall of Fame this year.