Central Catholic graduate got to share the stage with Peyton Manning at University of Virginia

The former diver joined the Broncos quarterback as a speaker at the University of Virginia's valedictory exercises.

Amy Rodgers and her brother, Mike, are Manning fans, but as New York Giants fans they have rooted for Eli much more than his brother Peyton.

That may change to a degree after their experience on May 17 when Amy and Mike got the chance to meet the Denver Broncos quarterback during the University of Virginia's valedictory exercises in which seniors present class gifts and university awards before a crowd of about 21,000.

Manning's wife, Ashley, is a 1997 graduate of Virginia's McIntire School of Commerce. The Class of 2014 graduation committee invited Manning to speak because his career, on and off the field, are examples of "leadership, excellence and generosity."

Amy Rodgers, a 2010 graduate of Central Catholic where she was an outstanding diver, was selected as a student speaker for the valedictory program.

"This was the day before the actual graduation ceremony and I was elected as the 'student welcome speaker' and I was the first speaker of the day," Rodgers said. "It was a huge honor to be elected and asked and definitely an awesome experience to be on the same stage with Peyton."

The student trustees, Rodgers being one, had an opportunity to meet with and have breakfast with Peyton and his wife in the morning in one of the university gardens before the ceremony began.

"He was a great guy, super friendly," Rodgers said. "He was very quick to share stories of his time of visiting UVA and Charlottesville when his wife was a student.

"He was an easy guy to talk to and he had a lot of good advice for our class in his speech, talking about how you have a lot to share and a lot to bring even as you enter the work force as a novice. Even being so famous, Peyton was so down-to-earth … really friendly and welcoming."

Amy got to bring her parents and brother, Mike, a former CCHS wrestler and a first-year student at Washington and Lee, to the ceremony. The whole family had a chance to meet Peyton.

"Ironically, we're Giants fans and we tend to root for the other Manning brother, but it was still a really neat opportunity for all of us," Amy said. "We didn't bring up the Giants and Eli at all. We just let him talk about his time in Charlottesville."

Amy was a four-year District 11 placewinner while diving at CCHS and finished 10th in the state meet as a senior.

She chose not to dive at Virginia with physics being a demanding major. Her brother, meanwhile, is still participating as a wrestler at Washington and Lee.

Amy didn't know she was going to speak until about three weeks before the event.

"It was kind of a whirlwind getting everything ready," she said. "But it was a cool 'once in a lifetime' opportunity for me, something I'll never forget."

Manning did toss a few passes from the podium to some of the seniors, and some video of that went worldwide. Amy wasn't one of them on the receiving end, but enjoyed every minute.

"His speech was very informative, but also very light-hearted as well," she said. "It was a great way to end my college career. It was tough academically, but I couldn't have asked for a better college experience."

Amy, who is from South Whitehall Township, is moving to New York City to begin a job working for Citigroup on Greenwich Street in the Tribeca section of Manhattan.

"I'll be a financial analyst working primarily with their hedge fund clients," she said. "It is a little bit of a career switch for me, but surprisingly, they hire a lot of physics and math majors to use the math skills we studied, but it's definitely a 180-degree turn from the hard sciences."

In New York, she'll be closer to her Giants, but she'll carry Peyton's words of his wisdom in her heart.

Tracking success





Look for this special section in your
Baltimore Sun newspaper on Dec. 29, 2013.
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