Barnesville’s Marmie recalls time with Peyton Manning

Barnesville native Larry Marmie has spent basically his entire adult life around major college or professional football.

Thus, he’s formed many relationships and become friends with some of the sport’s biggest names.

During his second tour of duty at the University of Tennessee, Marmie encountered a player who he still finds himself raving about to this day.

Though Marmie was the defensive coordinator with the Volunteers in 1994, he got to know a true freshman by the name of Peyton Manning quite well during that season.

And it didn’t take Marmie, who was recently hired as a defensive coach for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, long to realize just how special this 18-year-old son of Archie Manning from Louisiana was.

The qualities that Marmie saw are still resonating today as Manning prepares to lead the Denver Broncos into tonight’s Super Bowl XLVIII against the Seattle Seahawks.

Manning wasted little time in making a name for himself when he arrived in Knoxville.

“He came to summer school and right off the bat, he was earning the respect of his teammates,” Marmie said. “It was just by the way he operated and handled himself. Our guys learned quickly that he was a special guy.”

Entering the season, Manning was third on depth chart. He was behind fifth-year senior Jerry Colquitt and a guy by the name of Todd Helton, who obviously earned his fame as a baseball player.

“Jerry followed Heath Shuler and had been waiting patiently for his chance to start for the University of Tennessee,” Marmie recalled.

The Volunteers opened that season on the road in the Rose Bowl against UCLA. Colquitt went down with a serious knee injury in the third quarter, forcing Helton into action.

The Vols began Southeast Conference play at Mississippi State the following weekend with Helton at the controls and Manning in the back-up role.

Helton got the start against the Bulldogs and was playing well. However, he went down with a knee injury. Though it wasn’t as serious as Colquitt’s, Helton didn’t see the field again.

Manning entered that game, threw for more than 300 yards, but the Volunteers lost, 24-21. The loss aside, Manning had played his way into the job and his first career start came the following week in Neyland Stadium against Washington State.

“That’s basically how it happened,” Marmie said. “From there, he went on to do his thing.”

Because of the work ethic, leadership qualities and his obvious on-field abilities that he displayed allowed him to ease directly into the quarterback’s job.

“I’d never seen a freshman come in and command the respect and attention of the upperclassmen the way Peyton did,” Marmie said. “He just had a way about him that was special and everyone knew it.”

The Volunteers finished that season 8-4 and Manning threw for more than 1,100 yards.

Marmie left the Volunteers after that season and took the 1995 campaign off from football before joining the Arizona Cardinals’ staff as defensive backs coach.

Though that was the only season Marmie had up-close season with Manning, the former Shamrock has followed Manning’s career closely and hasn’t been one bit surprised by his accomplishments.

While some are critical of Manning and believe he needs a victory tonight to secure his legacy as one of the all-time greats, Marmie doesn’t believe that.

“It would certainly be nice for Peyton to win his second championship, but I don’t think it has to happen for him to go down as one of the greatest quarterbacks ever,” Marmie said.

Marmie, who was inducted to the OVAC Hall of Fame last summer and spent last season working for the Oakland Raiders, doesn’t think Manning’s last chapter comes tonight, regardless if it’s a win or a loss.

“Peyton Manning has written his own story, and I don’t think he needs anything for his legacy,” Marmie said.

While the passing yards, touchdowns and victories are nice, it was Manning’s personality and attention to detail that sold Marmie that he was destined for big things.

“Peyton is exactly who you think he is,” Marmie said. “When you see him in those commercials or being interviewed, that’s exactly who he is. He’s a down-to-earth guy who has a great sense of humor. He’s always made sure the people around him feel good.”