Sometimes it’s hard to keep secrets when your actions speak for themselves.
When Grambling State alum Doug Williams learned that an anonymous foundation endowed a scholarship in his name at his alma mater, he was hell-bent on finding out who it was.
“When I asked who did this, I was told the donor wished it to be anonymous,” Williams, now a senior vice president for the Washington Football Team, told ESPN. “You know I have my connections at Grambling. I made a phone call and found out it was Peyton Manning’s foundation.”
But as surprised as Williams was, it gets better.
“[Manning’s foundation] was endowing a half-dozen scholarships at historically Black colleges and universities [HBCUs],” Williams said. “Peyton is a Louisiana boy. I know he’s given to a lot of wonderful causes without publicity, but this was a most pleasant surprise for me.”
ESPN reports that yes, the greatest NFL quarterback of all-time (sorry, I don’t know who this Tom Brady guy is) has endowed six scholarships at four different HBCUs in his home state of Louisiana, as well as two in Tennessee, where he played for the Tennessee Volunteers as a collegiate athlete.
The endowments were made through his Peyback Foundation, which was founded in 1999, and apparently is in the business of handing out Christmas gifts early.
But again, it gets better.
Each endowment has a prestigious alum’s name on it at the request of the Peyton Foundation.
- Grambling State University - Doug Williams: the first black quarterback to both start and win a Super Bowl.
- Southern University and A&M College - Harold Carmichael: 2020 Pro Football Hall of Fame inductee.
- Tennesee State University - Wilma Rudolph: track and field legend; first woman to win three gold medals in the Olympics in 1960.
- Fisk University - Dr. Reavis L. Mitchell Jr.: historian and academic administrator who spent 40 years as a history professor; highly sought after consultant and contributor on African-American heritage.
- Xavier University of Louisiana - Dr. Norman Francis: school president since 1968; received Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2006 for his compassionate efforts in spearheading the recovery and rebuilding of New Orleans and surrounding areas after Hurricane Katrina.
- Dillard University - Dr. Michael Lomax: former university president; president and CEO of the United Negro College Fund since 2004.
When pressed for comment, Manning declined to address his personal involvement with the endowments but provided the following statement:
“The Peyback Foundation is honored to partner with these six colleges to honor distinguished Alumni and staff members, and to help college students at these schools now and many years to come. Really, for perpetuity.”
Yet despite his efforts to shy away from the spotlight, Williams and Carmichael are intent on ensuring that the two-time Super Bowl champ receives his due.
“I think Peyton needs to be recognized so we can expand the circle of potential donors out there for a great cause,” Williams said.
“I feel the same as Doug when it comes to what Peyton’s foundation is doing with HBCUs. It’s really an honor to have my name on that scholarship,” Carmichael said. “I go back a long time with Archie, his dad. We played in a Pro Bowl together. [...] An endowed scholarship with my name attached? I am really humbled and blessed.”
With his playing days behind him, it’s evident that Manning is still the same leader off the field that he was on it.