Manning’s Scholars

By Elizabeth A. Davis

Peyton Manning was the epitome of a scholar-athlete while playing quarterback for the Vols. Proceeds of all his football and scholar awards, totaling nearly $165,000, and other gifts to the athletics department were pooled to establish the Peyton Manning Scholarship.

The first scholarship was awarded in 1998. Earlier this year, Manning and his wife, Ashley, announced another significant investment in the endowment that will allow two students to win the scholarship each year. Manning scholars participate in the Haslam Scholars Program.


Jay BurnsCapt. Jay Burns meshed two career choices into one and joined the U.S. Army Judge Advocate General’s Corps. He graduated from UT Knoxville in the College Scholars program in 2002, was commissioned after finishing the Army ROTC program and graduated from the UT College of Law in 2005.

He currently serves as a battalion judge advocate in the 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne) at Fort Carson, Colo. Prior to this assignment, Burns spent one year deployed in southern Afghanistan as the brigade judge advocate for the 101st Combat Aviation Brigade of the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) based in Fort Campbell, Ky.

In Afghanistan, Burns was tasked with counseling the commanders on the legal do’s and don’ts of fighting enemy combatants. It was an important role. Throughout the United States’ military involvement in Afghanistan, noncombatant casualties have continued to be both tragic for the Afghan people and counterproductive to America’s strategic goals.

“It was stressful, but that’s what we’re there for,” he says. “I am so proud to have been a part of a unit that had no civilian casualties in the year we were there.”

Back in Colorado, Burns acts much like a company’s general counsel, overseeing the battalion’s adherence to a variety of military and civilian laws and regulations and providing assistance to soldiers who need help with powers of attorney, wills and other personal legal issues.

Burns grew up on a farm in rural Greene County, north of Knoxville. He was accepted to UT as a Whittle Scholar, the university’s most prestigious scholarship at the time.

Manning presented the scholarship to Burns at halftime of the Orange and White spring football game.

“It was the same day that Peyton was drafted by the Colts, and he autographed a football for me with his new number, 18,” Burns says. “I had already followed him throughout his college career at UT, so naturally, after receiving the scholarship and all that, I have followed him closely ever since.”

Burns has one year left in his assignment in Colorado. He will continue his career in the Army after finishing the graduate-level JAG course next year, when he also hopes to be promoted to major.


Drew HolcombRebekah Capps is director of admissions for pre-first through eighth grade at Nashville’s Ensworth School, where she has worked for eight years. She majored in psychology.


Drew Holcomb is the leader of the Nashville-based band Drew Holcomb & the Neighbors. Their music, described as Americana, folksy pop-country, has been featured on TV shows Parenthood, Brothers and Sisters, Army Wives, Deadliest Catch and Justified. They have produced four albums and are signed with Dualtone Music. Holcomb, who writes almost all the band’s songs, put the group together in 2006, three years after graduating from UT in the College Scholars program. After forming the band, Holcombe earned a master’s degree at St. Andrews University in Scotland.


Kimberly Martin has pursued a career in higher education. A marketing major, Martin is director of institutional effectiveness at Volunteer State Community College in Gallatin, Tenn. After UT, she earned her master of business administration at Bethel University and is working on a doctorate in education in higher education leadership and policy at Vanderbilt University.


Rachel Matthews was inspired by volunteering as a student with TeamVOLS and Dance Marathon and is a Teach For America corps member in the Mississippi Delta region and a teacher in KIPP, the Knowledge Is Power Program.


Brad Russell is the fifth member of his immediate family to graduate from UT Knoxville. He graduated in 2007 with a bachelor’s degree in computer engineering, got a master of business administration from UT and started his own Internet marketing company in Knoxville called Volantis Web Solutions.


Jessica Jarrell PooreMichael Clapp works at the PNP Design Group in Greensboro, N.C., and volunteers for Habitat for Humanity. Clapp graduated at the top of his class in the College of Architecture and Design.


Jessica Jarrell Poore majored in agriculture economics and business and then earned a master’s degree. She has been teaching leadership theory, agriscience teaching methods, global marketing in agriculture sectors and small-team leadership at UTK and plans to begin a doctoral program in the fall while teaching.


Nora Hassell is the lands manager for the Legacy Parks Foundation, a local Knoxville land conservancy, and she’s based at Seven Islands Wildlife Refuge, a 410-acre wildlife sanctuary and Knox County public park. A native of Maynardville, Tenn., Hassell graduated in 2010 with a degree in landscape design and construction.


Kara Seat is a recruiter for Brooksource, an IT staffing firm in Nashville. She graduated in 2011 with a degree in communication.


Elizabeth Tiller graduated in May in public administration and Spanish with a concentration in Hispanic studies. A distance runner for the Lady Vols’ track and cross country teams, Tiller was a member of the inaugural class of Haslam Scholars.


Marianela D'AprileHunter Tipton is a student in microbiology and hopes to go to medical school. He is president of the United Residence Hall Council.


Marianela D’Aprile is studying architecture and believes earning the scholarship has encouraged her to excel.


Phoebe Fogelman and Tyrel Prentiss begin their second years this fall. Fogelman is majoring in mechanical engineering. Prentiss studied in Italy last summer.


Chris Barnes and Macy Harrison will enroll as freshmen this fall.