Making his college football debut on the famous and historic Rose Bowl Stadium turf, Peyton Manning was formally introduced to the football world when he trotted onto the field in Pasadena as a true freshman at Tennessee playing against UCLA on September 3, 1994.
Made possible by a generous gift by Kevin G. Clifford to the Rose Bowl Legacy Foundation, a historical marker honoring Peyton Manning and his first-ever college football game is now located outside Tunnel 16, the same number he wore on his jersey while in Knoxville. The donation from Clifford, who is a long-time Rose Bowl Stadium seat holder and former Pasadena resident, also supports the core of Legacy’s mission, which is to preserve, protect and enhance the Rose Bowl Stadium as a National Historic Landmark.
“It has been a privilege to partner with the Rose Bowl Stadium team to recognize our great friend, Peyton,” said Clifford about the project. “The Rose Bowl and Peyton are two American icons now joined together to honor America’s Stadium and all that is great about College Football!”
Beginning in 2017 with the dedication of the Jackie Robinson football statue in front of its main entrance, the Legacy Foundation has continued adding significant heritage projects around the venue’s property due to key donations from its support base. Other completed statues include the 1999 Team USA Women’s World Cup Championship Team and Keith Jackson, both dedicated in 2019. In 2017, the venue’s original locker room was saved and currently serves as a museum-like space recognizing the history of the National Historic Landmark.
Last year, with significant help in its planning from Pasadena Heritage, Legacy began raising funds to place historical markers around the venue to highlight some of its key moments. Manning’s marker is the second on the property thus far (Myron Hunt at Gate A). The Legacy Foundation hopes to add more historical markers to educate its visitors about past events and contributors to the Stadium’s sports and entertainment timeline. Some markers include UCLA’s ‘Gutty Little Bruins’, UCLA’s 1982 move to the Rose Bowl, Michigan Coach Bo Schembechler, Grambling Coach Eddie Robinson, the Ivy League, Brown University star Fritz Pollard, Notre Dame’s Knute Rockne, Stanford’s Pop Warner, and several more.
On that sunny September Pasadena day in 1994, legendary college football broadcaster, Keith Jackson, welcomed Peyton Manning to the field by telling fans to, “get used to it.” College football fans certainly got used to Peyton, and so did the record books. Manning checked into the game after an injury to the Vols’ starting quarterback, leading Tennessee for one drive and handing the ball off three times. Two weeks later, Manning completed his first collegiate pass against Florida. He was named the UT starting quarterback by mid-season and he never looked back.
Peyton competed in the Rose Bowl Stadium a second time in 1997 in a regular season shootout against UCLA All-American and new College Football Hall of Famer, Cade McNown. Tennessee won a tight one against the Bruins by a score of 30-24.
“You never forget your first time going into the huddle with the starters in a college game and it was an honor for me to have played my first college game in the Rose Bowl,” said Manning. “It’s a memory that will never be taken away from me. I was aware of the history of the venue going into the game and I’m proud to be a small part of that history.”
Over the next two-plus decades, fans from Knoxville to Indianapolis to Denver and all around the world enjoyed Peyton’s talents on the football field and fans in all of those communities and beyond benefited from his generosity away from it.
Clifford is also a Board of Directors member of the prestigious National Football Foundation, which has a mission to promote and develop the power of amateur football in developing the qualities of leadership, sportsmanship, competitive zeal and the drive for academic excellence in America’s young people. The Wabash (IN) graduate spent over 37 years as one of the key leaders of Capital Group and its management committee, serving as the CEO of American Funds Distributors.
“Thank you to Kevin for his special commitment to the future of America’s Stadium and his willingness to recognize such a key part of our iconic timeline in Peyton,” said chief development officer Dedan Brozino. “So many sports and entertainment careers have crossed paths with the Rose Bowl during its lifetime and it is special for us to recognize the first college game of one of the all-time greats to ever play the quarterback position.”
About the Rose Bowl Legacy Foundation
Formed in 2010, the Rose Bowl Legacy Foundation is a 501©3, tax-exempt organization whose primary goal is to financially ensure the protection, preservation and enhancement of the future of the Stadium as a National Historic Landmark. The Foundation has established funding for key capital improvement initiatives, educational programming and heritage protection due to the generosity of supporters from around the world who are invested in its premier future.
About the Rose Bowl Stadium
The Rose Bowl Stadium is the proud home of the Tournament of Roses’ Rose Bowl Game, UCLA Bruins football, AmericaFest Fourth of July Celebration, concerts including Kenny Chesney, Coldplay, Taylor Swift and U2, international and Premier League soccer matches and the World’s Largest Flea Market.
A National Historic Landmark built in 1922 and known around the world, the Rose Bowl Stadium has earned its world class reputation by hosting five NFL Super Bowl games, the 1984 Olympic Soccer matches, the 1994 Men’s World Cup, the 1999 Women’s World Cup, four BCS National College Football Championship Games and the College Football Playoff Semi-Final game.