Thursday, February 01, 2007

Super Bowl XLI: Back to School? [J. Mark English]

A week and a half ago, Peyton Manning made it over the hump, and as many have said, took the gorilla off his back. Manning finally defeated New England in the playoffs.

Before the AFC Championship game, Manning had a reputation of being a great quarterback, but also of being a choke artist.

In his four years at the University of Tennessee, not once did the Vols beat the Florida Gators. In his senior year, Manning & the Vols went into Gainesville with a perfect record. They would lose 33-20, ruining Manning's shot at a National Championship. A championship that still eludes him to this day.

The following year, after Manning went on to the NFL, the Vols would go on to win the 1998 National Title, despite not having their All American quarterback.

Rex Grossman began his first season at the University of Florida, the nemesis of Manning's career, in 2000. Grossman didn't light up the air like Manning did in Tennessee, but he did win. He excelled at Florida, and his team, though never winning a National Championship, consistently remained at the top of the polls.

Grossman, who finished 2nd in the Heisman Trophy vote in 2001, never received the accolade that his counterpart did during his college career. At the same time, he was never accused of never being able to "slay the dragon" either.

So, of all places, Manning returns to Florida, the very state where his dreams were brutally awakened, and turned into a nightmare when he was a Volunteer. And he faces of all people, Grossman, who was himself, a Florida Gator.

Will the curse of Gainesville and the Gators live on through the embodiment of Grossman and the Bears? Or has Manning already slain the "dragon" by defeating the Patriots in an improbable come from behind win?

Thats why they play the game folks. We shall wait and see!

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