Emory Report
May 31, 2005
Volume 57, Number 31


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May 31, 2005
Quarterback scores with speech

by eric rangus

For one evening, football at Emory was alive and well. Indianapolis Colts quarterback and reigning National Football League Most Valuable Player Peyton Manning was the keynote speaker for Class Day, Thursday, May 12, in Glenn Auditorium.

Manning’s 20-minute address—delivered with minimal use of notes and maximum use of self-deprecating humor—was motivational (“Our rewards are directly proportional to the efforts we make.”); thankful (“It’s always exciting for me to be among people who think big and have a vision for themselves.”); and he appeared eager to pass along the many life lessons he learned in college and the pros.

“Everyone throws an interception once in a while, but not everyone has the gumption to get back in the game,” said Manning, making one of many football references on the evening. He quoted not only his father (two-time All-Pro and College Football Hall of Famer Archie Manning) and four-time Super Bowl-winning coach Chuck Noll, but also Napoleon Bonaparte and internationally known business consultant Peter Drucker.

One of the NFL’s biggest stars, Manning was drafted No. 1 overall in 1998 by the Colts following a standout collegiate career at the University of Tennessee. Twice he has been named the NFL’s Most Valuable Player, making five Pro Bowl appearances. In 2004, Manning’s 49 touchdown passes set a new league record.
Leadership was a central theme of his address, and he stressed that Emory’s senior class should not be afraid to make mistakes. It was a point he drove home several times. “You have to be willing to take a risk,” Manning said. “The greatest risk is not in taking the wrong action; it’s letting our fears keep us from taking action at all.”

As President Jim Wagner wryly noted in his closing comments, Emory is a Div. III university noted for its undefeated football team (the joke, of course, is that Emory has never had one). But that doesn’t mean the student body is devoid of fans.

More than 1,000 graduating seniors attended, several dressed in New England Patriots jerseys (the team that has knocked the Colts out of the playoffs the past two years) as well as a supportive handful in Tennessee orange. If there was any Colts-wear in the house, it was well hidden.

None of that bothered Manning, who not only told an amusing story of a dream he had that identified God as a Patriots fan, but read aloud a letter from a fourth-grader in Albany, N.Y., who asked Manning for autograph from his younger brother Eli, a quarterback with the New York Giants.