When professors began taking roll in their classes this fall they may have noticed an uptick in students with one particular name.
It’s been about eighteen years since Peyton Manning ruled Shields-Watkins Field and made lots of die-hard fans. So die-hard, in fact, that the name Peyton surged in popularity in Tennessee and beyond.
There are nineteen students in this year’s freshman class named Peyton, or the variation Payton. Some are named for the famous quarterback. And some, though not named for Manning, have some interesting connections.
A Sports Illustrated article on the subject in 2013 stated that UT Medical Center saw a total of sixty-eight Peytons born between 1996 and 1998.
Freshman Peyton Lara, one of the similarly monikered teens featured in the SI article, is a Knoxville native who knew three other Peytons in high school and had the opportunity to meet Manning, though Lara may not remember the encounter.
“I met Peyton Manning after one of the UT football practices when I was about a year old,” says Lara, who keeps the photo of himself sitting on Manning’s knee in his residence hall room.
But it was more than the Manning connection that made Lara apply to UT.
“I love the fact that UT has a very prestigious engineering program,” he says.
Freshmen Peyton Marshall and Bradley Peyton Shown also chose to come to UT because of the engineering program. Marshall, a native of Sevierville, Tennessee, hopes to study biomedical engineering. Shown, of LaFollette, Tennessee, is deciding between mechanical and civil engineering.
Both were named after Manning and have known a few other Peytons while growing up in Tennessee.
Though neither have met Manning, Shown says his dad was a member of the Pride of the Southland Band and had the opportunity to shake hands with Manning.
Peyton Lassiter of Hendersonville, Tennessee, was named after Manning while her father’s friend named a son after another UT football legend, Heath Shuler.
“My whole family has always been strong UT fans,” says Lassiter, who will major in political science and hopes to work in international affairs or in the local government.
Not That Peyton
Lindsey Peyton Lauricella has quite the UT legacy even though she wasn’t named for Manning.
“Part of my name does honor Peyton Manning,” she says. “But I wasn’t named especially after him.”
Lauricella’s mother’s maiden name was Peyton and her sister’s name is Peyton.
“Peyton is a huge family name for us,” she says. “And my grandparents are very good friends with Archie and Olivia Manning.”
Her grandfather, Francis “Hank” Lauricella played football at UT under General Robert Neyland from 1949 to 1951. He was a member of the 1950 and 1951 National Championship teams.
“My grandpa had a special relationship with Peyton, given that they are both from New Orleans and played UT football.”
Lauricella came to UT to follow in the footsteps of her grandparents—Hank and Betty Valker Lauricella. She is on a pre-med track and is thinking of studying kinesiology.
Peyton Nanney was a new baby in the hospital when his mother decided on his name. She simply liked the name Peyton.
“When my mother chose Peyton as a name, my father told her that there was a really good quarterback at UT with the same name who may be famous,” Nanney says.
His dad was concerned that people would think Nanney was named for Manning. His mother disagreed, saying he probably wouldn’t become famous.
Nanney is continuing his parents’ legacy by attending UT. He wants to study physics and one day work for NASA.
Though Peyton Sosebee wasn’t named for Manning (he was named after his grandfather), he and his parents are big fans of the quarterback.
“I haven’t met Peyton Manning, but I’ve been dreaming of meeting him since I was a little kid,” says the Rock Hill, South Carolina native.
Sosebee, whose mother is a graduate of UT Law, is majoring in animal science with a concentration in pre-veterinary medicine and wouldn’t think of studying anywhere other than UT.
“I fell in love with campus and the area—not to mention all of the kind and hospitable people on campus. However, UT also offers outstanding undergraduate and graduate programs for my major,” he says.
With a slightly different spelling of her name, Payton Meeker of Spring Hill, Tennessee, lays claim to a different football great for her namesake.
“Yes, I was named after Walter Payton—Chicago Bears player and one of the best running backs of all time!”
Meeker had no connection to UT when she began looking at different colleges, but UT stood above the crowd because of its affordability.
“As I started to look into UT, however, I instantly fell in love with everything about the school,” she says.
Feature photo: Front row (from left): Peyton Marshall, Lindsey Peyton Lauricella, Peyton Nanney, and Peyton Branam. Back row (from left): Peyton Haley, Peyton Terry, Bradley Peyton Shown, Peyton Sosebee. Photo by Dustin Brown