KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — The Sheriff was back in town Tuesday, and he brought his A-game to recognize several athletes and sports personalities that have made their mark on East Tennessee history.
Peyton Manning was 2021's guest speaker for the Greater Knoxville Sports Hall of Fame induction ceremony at the Knoxville Convention Center Tuesday.
"It means a lot. Knoxville is a special place to me. It's been a big part of my life," Manning said. "Even though I haven't gone to school here since 1997, it's been a big part of my life since I left. People here have been great to me and extremely supportive. A lot of great Tennessee folks from Knoxville came up to Indianapolis and cheered hard for me and so it means a lot to me to come back and be a part of this evening on behalf of the Greater Knoxville Sports Hall of Fame and the Boys and Girls Club. It's a win-win."
Each year, 10 locals are inducted into the Hall of Fame for their achievements in athletics, coaching, sports administration, or officiating.
This year's inductees include Lady Vol track and field star Heather Sumpter Blakemore, Oak Ridge NFL linebacker and coach Mike Caldwell, former UT football coach David Cutcliffe, veteran broadcaster and "Voice of the Lady Vols" Mickey Dearstone, Knoxville race official Donnie Graham, Knoxville native and Vanderbilt tennis star Chris Groer, MLB pitcher and Lenoir City trainer Lee Guetterman, Maryville-native and Paracyclist Carly Pearson, Knoxville trainer Charlie Petrone, and Knoxville golfer Jay Wise.
Other honorees include Knoxville’s Most Outstanding Male and Female High School Athletes of the Year, the Chad Pennington Professional Athlete of the Year, the Pat Summitt Ignite Greatness Award and other significant special recognition award recipients.
All proceeds from the even benefit the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Tennessee Valley.
During Tuesday's Q&A session, Manning also spoke about his recent induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
"It was a great experience down there obviously to share with my family and old teammates. Coach Fulmer and Coach Cutcliffe were there. To see a bunch of Broncos teammates, Tennessee teammates and high school teammates there it has been a great time to reflect on my football journey," he said.
Manning also shared his thoughts about Tennessee's new football team and new head coach Josh Heupel.
"We got a lot of new players, a lot of young players. It'll be somewhat of an adjustment still. I think it's going to be a fun offense to watch. Players are working hard. It's really hot out here and to see guys out there working hard. it's encouraging Everybody has to be patient and I'm pulling hard for him," he said.
Several of Peyton's fans were excited to see him back in town Tuesday.
"I'm sure Peyton has other things to do, but he continually gives back to the Knoxville community, especially the Tennessee community. To give back to kids in this area, to give them a hope for something better in their lives... that's a true statement to his character," Vol fan Clay Anderson said.