Peyton Manning has been an incredible ambassador for Tennessee football over the last 25 years.
Manning is instantly recognizable, has a great sense of humor, and is a can’t-miss persona during most NFL games (thanks to all the commercials he appears in).
But I think it’s time for the Vols to replace Manning as the national face of UT football.
It’s not that Manning has done anything wrong. It’s simply because he’s about to turn 45, he hasn’t played at the collegiate level since 1997, and he hasn’t played in the NFL since the 2015 season.
Manning is an archaic figure when it comes to recruits. It’s hard to sell Peyton Manning as the face of the program when coaches are trying to recruit kids that weren’t even alive when Manning won his first NFL MVP award.
Fortunately for Tennessee, there’s a former Vol who could take the torch from Manning as the face of the program.
Former running back Alvin Kamara.
Kamara is one of the NFL’s biggest young stars. He has a great personality, and recruits love him.
Yet I bet most casual NFL fans have no clue Kamara played at Tennessee.
That likely extends to recruits, too.
“I see myself as an Alvin Kamara type, someone who can move around and make plays in the run and passing game…Alvin Kamara, that’s my guy,” said 2022 four-star running back Rayshon Luke to 247Sports this week.
Luke is the nation’s No. 1 all-purpose back, and he loves Kamara, yet he didn’t mention Tennessee one time during his conversation with 247Sports.
That obviously needs to change.
Kamara is the former Vol best equipped to help Tennessee in recruiting. The Vols need to put Kamara on the back of the jumbotron, feature him prominently in Neyland Stadium, enter into a strategic partnership with the former UT running back. Whatever the case may be, Tennessee needs to do a better job of utilizing its relationship with Kamara.
Most young recruits aren’t connecting with Peyton Manning. They don’t even really know Manning as a football player. But they watch Alvin Kamara every week. That’s the guy Tennessee should be hitching its wagon to right now.
I’m not saying Manning needs to be “retired” by the Vols, but I do think they need to drastically shift their focus from Manning to Kamara.
It will only help when it comes to recruiting.
Featured image via Randy Sartin-USA Today/Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports