Peyton Manning on Coach Derek Dooley
A disappointing end to what was painfully close to being a perfect season hasn't changed Peyton Manning's approach to the off-season.
"I really think whether you win a Super Bowl or lose a Super Bowl, or maybe don't even make it, I think it's your job to work even harder than you did the year before to be a better player," the former Tennessee quarterback said Monday after awarding Marianela D'Aprile with the 13th annual Peyton Manning Scholarship.
The former Vol knows both emotions associated with winning and losing a Super Bowl. He enjoyed the Indianapolis Colts' NFL championship in 2007, but still laments the costly interception that undermined the Colts' bid to win another Super Bowl this past February.
"If you're celebrating too much because you just won or you're sulking too much because you just lost, that's not fair to the next players and the next coaches," he said.
Manning was close to celebrating the ultimate season. His Colts nearly completed a perfect regular season before deciding to rest their starters, then nearly won their second championship in four seasons before falling short to the New Orleans Saints.
Manning, who is in his 13th season, isn't thinking about 2009. He's confident that the Colts can be better in 2010, citing that Indianapolis' youth inspires him and his teammates.
"It kind of makes the older players like me feel young. Of course, they call me Mr. Manning, which I'm not comfortable with," Manning said.
Some of those "older players" will play key roles this fall. Safety Bob Sanders and receiver Anthony Gonzalez return. Both were injured last season.
"I kind of look at that like two free agents that we signed," Manning said, always the optimist.
The Colts can wait for awhile. For now, Manning wants to re-educate himself with a program that has changed so much.
"I can't relate to the coaching changes," Manning said of UT, which has had three head coaches in three seasons. "That's tough.
"One thing I've had since I've been in football is great continuity."
Manning, who played at UT 1994-97, had one head coach in college: Phillip Fulmer. He has had only three coaches in the NFL.
Jim Mora coached Manning for four seasons. Tony Dungy ran the show 2002-08. Dungy's understudy, Jim Caldwell, took over last season.
Call Manning a creature of habit. He loves consistency.
He said it takes at least two years to learn one system - much less two, as the Vols will have to do again.
Still, he's behind UT head coach Derek Dooley, and looks forward to visiting with him this week.
"So far I've enjoyed what Coach Dooley has had to say and his philosophy on things," Manning said. "Certainly, everybody's got to give him time to establish himself and establish his principles. The things that he and I have talked about in his way of doing things, it makes a lot of sense.
"I think Coach Dooley will get us going in the right direction.''
Many former Vols, however, had the same thoughts about former UT coach Lane Kiffin a year ago. That was long before Kiffin bolted from Knoxville to be the head coach at Southern California.
"I think everybody associated with the University was a little stung," Manning said of Kiffin's departure. "I've always seen the University of Tennessee as a destination job. It's not a transition job.
"This is where you come to retire - or until maybe they tell you it's time to move on. It's not a place where you come to make the next step. I think everybody's pride was hurt a little bit."
Manning won't let bruised Vol pride affect him this week.
He's enjoying the off-season. Working out with current Vols, as he's done summer after summer since he finished his college career.
"This is something I look forward to every single year," he said. "You talk about feeling young again? That's a lot of fun for me. I don't take that for granted."