At UT, the name "Manning" has had and will always have a profound impact on both the academic and athletic sides of the community, but Peyton Manning isn't the only "Manning" to make the transition from student athlete to Volunteer for Life.
While he may have set an example as a leader and supportive role model for many athletes across the nation and specifically at UT, former Lady Vol Alicia Manning has been quietly working to benefit the university day after day since her years as a student-athlete ended.
"My five years (at UT) have been quite the journey," she said. "It's just been such an amazing experience and I've been really blessed to have such an opportunity both as a player and now as a graduate assistant for the Tennessee Fund. It's just opened so many doors for me."
Her time as an athlete continues to affect her life now as a graduate student, but one specific influence in her life has been legendary head coach emeritus Pat Summitt.
"Being able to play for Pat Summitt, especially in her last year as a coach here, the honor I feel, I can't really put into words," Manning said. "She's such an amazing person and her staff, they're such amazing people. That carries out throughout the athletic department."
After the 6-foot-1 forward graduated a year early with a degree in sports management, Manning decided to continue her career and pursue a master's degree with her last year of eligibility. After finishing her last year in the spring of 2012, Manning continued pursuing her master's and will graduate this coming May.
She said coming into UT she never thought she would end up valuing academics enough to pursue a graduate degree.
"When I grew up there was never really a huge emphasis on academics, it was more like you did it because you had to to play a sport," Manning said. "I realized the importance behind it when I got here and realized how it can help me in so many areas of my life ... It goes beyond the text book so I think that really has helped me a lot. I wouldn't trade my academics for another four years of playing just because of the impact it's had on me and how it's prepared me for what's to come."
Manning now works as a graduate assistant within the athletics department and she said it helps her to see behind the scenes and into the world of the people that made her college experience possible.
"Just being on this side of the athletic department, not as a player, but on the fundraising side, I realize now how much work goes into me and my teammates having a scholarship," she said. "It's incredible for them to bring in that much money so that us student athletes can go to class and take summer school to get ahead and have meal plans and housing and things like that. ...
"That just goes to show the tradition that the athletic department has had and how much of an impact it's had on the community that they're willing to support it and give their hard-earned money."
While Manning's love for the university and for Knoxville has grown and developed over the years and kept her faithfully contributing toward the success of the sports programs through her work with Tennessee Fund, she's ready to graduate and move on to a new chapter of life.
"I eventually want to be a Division I head coach at a major university," she said. "I don't have a particular school that my heart's set on, I just know that I want to be in a competitive league that is going to challenge me and make me a better coach and I can recruit kids that want to be there and instill the same things that I've learned from Pat Summitt into the generation to come."
That doesn't change her desire to continue investing in UT.
"I love UT. I think it's the tradition that's behind it and we're such a dominating athletic department and the culture here is awesome," Manning said. "You want to always be a part of that. The Vol for Life thing, I think that really holds true. If you look at the football players that Butch Jones has been bringing back and Coach Summitt and Holly Warlick are always bringing back former players to mentor and be a guide and and inspiration to some of these kids."
Manning has a heart for the young athletes at UT who are in the process of making the same life decisions she had to. She said she wants to inspire and encourage those students to press on and works toward a higher goal than just the next personal record.
"For the people that aren't Vol for Life's yet and are still here, don't take what you have for granted and the things you have here for granted because it does go by so fast," she said. "A lot of times athletes will go into survival mode instead of really trying to thrive. I say that in the academic sense and the athletic sense. I don't want these kids to overlook how powerful academics can be. Just enjoy every day and enjoy these moments while they last."
Now while Manning is looking forward to the next season that life has to offer, it's always hard to close the book on a season of life that has had such a lasting effect.
"It's hard to believe that another chapter of my life is closing," she said. "First was the collegiate athlete chapter closing and now it's the master's student chapter closing. It's flown by and I guess the real world chapter is opening up."