Peyton Manning is a giant in the University of Tennessee athletics community. But even his stature is dwarfed by that of Pat Summitt.
Summitt, the legendary Lady Volunteers women’s basketball coach, died Tuesday at age 64, leaving behind a legacy that included 1,098 victories and eight national championships. She left a lasting mark on her school and college sports as a whole, as Manning described in a “SportsCenter” interview shortly after news of her death broke.
“Pat meant a great deal to me,” the former Tennessee quarterback said. “It’s obviously a very sad day for the Tennessee family — a sad day for everyone that ever came into contact with Pat Summitt and felt the impact that she had on them. But speaking for me, Pat was a great friend to me, a great resource. And even though I never played for her, I always felt like she was one of my coaches.
“I used to lean on her for advice. She was one of the people that I spoke with my junior year in college when I was deciding whether to turn pro or stay for my senior year, and she gave me some invaluable advice. I used to see her every time I went back to Knoxville and used to see her in Indianapolis quite a bit when she’d come up to see (ex-Lady Vols star) Tamika Catchings play. So, we maintained a really close friendship. I was honored to present her with the Arthur Ashe Award a few years ago and honored to serve on the Pat Summitt Alzheimer’s Foundation for these past several years.
“I miss her, I love her very much, and like I said, it’s a very sad day.”
Summitt retired in 2012 as the winningest coach in college basketball history, men’s or women’s.
“It would have been a great experience to play for her,” Manning said. “She could have coached any team, any sport, men’s or women’s. It wouldn’t have mattered, because Pat could flat-out coach. I will miss her dearly, and I am honored to call her my friend.”
Thumbnail photo via Randy Sartin/USA TODAY Sports Images