March 27 (UPI) -- Future Hall of Fame quarterback Peyton Manning crashed an online class at the University of Tennessee to deliver an uplifting message to senior students who can't meet in campus classrooms due to the coronavirus.
Manning made the surprise appearance Thursday during a Communications 499 class. John Haas, one of Manning's favorite professors, teaches the course. Manning played at Tennessee from 1994 through 1997 before becoming the No. 1 overall pick in the 1998 NFL Draft.
Haas was a few minutes into the class on Zoom video conference before there was a ding sound. Haas then said "Mr. Thompson [Manning], I think you're late for class."
Manning, who wore a visor as a disguise, responded: "I'm sorry Dr. Haas. It's been a while. It's been at least since 1996 or 1997 I've been in a class."
"If you were here, I'd be making you run the stadium steps for being late," Haas said.
The 23 other students in the conference quickly figured out Manning's true identity and displayed shocked reactions. Manning then delivered a supportive message to the group.
"I realize this is probably not the ideal way you guys expected to spend your senior year," Manning said. "I just encourage you to keep a positive attitude, keep working like you're doing and try to take a little bit of the extra time you have to accomplish something else or help out somebody in need. There are a lot of people hurting out there during this time.
"Be thankful for what you have and just know the University of Tennessee is proud of you and going to support you every way they can, and Dr. Haas and his department are going to do the same thing."
The students thanked Manning before Haas joked that Manning should become a teacher and attend grad school on the Knoxville, Tenn., campus.
"I'll make sure to save an assistant-ship for you," Haas said.
Manning said "Go Vols!" before logging out of the session.
Manning, 44, had his No. 16 jersey retired in 2005 at Tennessee. The 14-time Pro Bowl selection, seven-time All-Pro, five-time NFL MVP and two-time Super Bowl champion donated $1 million to the university in 2018 to establish the John Haas Student Experimental Learning Endowment. He also created the Peyton Manning Scholars endowment, which provides four-year scholarships to incoming students at Tennessee.
Tennessee announced March 16 that it was moving to online classes for the remainder of the spring semester amid the coronavirus pandemic.