Peyton Mannng, quarterback for the Denver Broncos, addressed the graduating UVA class as the keynote speaker at Virginia's 2014 Valedictory Exercises. Manning, who is married to a 1997 UVA graduate, followed Stephen Colbert, last year's speaker at the event (and also a "UVA husband." Virginia has graduated some impressive individuals...but perhaps nothing more impressive than our marriage material).
Valediction, where awards are presented to distinguished members of the graduating class, is a ceremony that takes place the day prior to the traditional commencement. One such award was the Louis A. Onesty Memorial Scholar-Athlete Award, which was presented to Joe Harris and Akil Mitchell....could it be any other way?
Manning's address started with his noting that, despite visiting the University and its establishments (such as Bodo's, Biltmore, and Mem Gym) often to see his future wife, Ashley, he had never thrown footballs on the Lawn. He "fulfilled that dream" when he threw passes to three students in the audience - all 3 were completed. Manning would note that Ashley "came to Virginia because she couldn't get in to Tennessee."
Manning focused on advising graduates on how to break into the real world as a "rookie." He urged students to question authority, and present new ideas to their work places, even if they were against the traditional wisdom. Rather, students' naiveté could allow them to "think outside the parameters that restrict other peoples' thoughts." After all, he noted, "an amateur built the ark; experts built the Titanic."
The former University of Tennessee star did note that having that attitude isn't easy. When the Vol's starting QB went down with an injury during the 1995 Rose Bowl, freshman Peyton Manning jogged into the huddle looking to be a leader and take control, per his father's advice. He did so, telling the team that he was just a freshman, but was planning on driving the team down the field for a TD. Left tackle Jason Layman immediately pulled Manning aside, saying "Hey freshman, shut the blank up and call the blanking plays."
Manning's full speech is above (and, if you're in the speech-watching kinda mood, you can also check out Stephen Colbert at last year's Valediction, or this year's speech at Final Exercises by the very impressive Secretary of the Navy Ray Maybus).
The only bad news: Peyton Manning will be returning to the Denver Broncos, as even Mike London was unable to pull off this potential recruiting coup.