KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - Tennessee quarterback Peyton Manning said today he will return for his senior season, bypassing an early jump to the NFL in which he likely would have been the top draft choice.
"I made up my mind and I don't expect to ever look back," Manning told a news conference. "I am going to stay at the University of Tennessee."
Cheers went up around the room.
"As difficult as it has been I knew I couldn't make a bad decision. But I knew whatever decision I made had to be my own decision and nobody else's."
He thanked his parents, Archie and Olivia Manning, for their support.
Archie Manning, former Mississippi and New Orleans Saints quarterback, has fielded most of the media calls for his son for the last two months.
Peyton Manning said there was no one factor that led to his decision, which he slept on last night.
"This past week, I felt all the pieces of the puzzle fit together," he said.
Manning said the hiring of Bill Parcells as coach of the New York Jets - the team with the top draft pick - tempted him to jump to the NFL, but he decided against it.
"I had been pretty intent on staying until I found out that Bill Parcells would be coach of the New York Jets. I have a lot of respect for him," he said.
Manning said he researched his decision by talking to other professional athletes, including Michael Jordan, Troy Aikman, Phil Simms and Drew Bledsoe.
"That's a hard act to follow!" said an obviously pleased Phillip Fulmer, Tennessee's head coach, who took the microphone after Manning.
"The rascal knows how to keep a secret," he said.
Manning did not have to declare his intention to enter the April 19 draft on Jan. 10, the deadline for most undergraduates, because he is scheduled to graduate this spring.
Manning holds Tennessee records for career passing yardage (7,382), touchdowns (53), completions (576), attempts (904), completion percentage (63.7) and numerous single-season marks.
He has been mum about his plans since the Vols' 48-28 victory over Northwestern in the Citrus Bowl on New Year's Day.
Archie said he provided his son with a package of information to study on agents and salary caps.
Only one other college quarterback, Jim Druckenmiller of Virginia Tech, is considered a first-round prospect. Danny Wuerffel, the Heisman Trophy winner from Florida, is projected at this point to go around the fourth or fifth round.
Tennessee begins spring football practice on March 17. Manning has said he wanted to make the announcement before then so the Vols' coaches would know.
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