Peyton Manning crashes an online class at the University of Tennessee

Peyton Manning crashes an online class at the University of Tennessee. By Jill Martin, CNN

(CNN) -- You never know who might show up to class.

On Thursday, University of Tennessee professor John Haas was in the midst of giving instructions to his students in an online class on Zoom. Then, someone joined in late, prompting the professor to say in a stern tone, "Mr. Thompson, I think you're late for class."

"I'm sorry, Dr. Haas," Peyton Manning replied, wearing a Tennessee visor. "It's been a while. It's been at least since 1996 or '97 since I've been in a class."

When the students realized it was the football legend that had crashed their communication studies senior capstone class, some could be seen with their mouths dropped open, seemingly in disbelief.

"You know, if you were here, I'd be making you run the stadium steps for being late," Haas said, which made the two-time Super Bowl champion and former Volunteers quarterback chuckle.

Because of the coronavirus pandemic, students are adjusting to online learning. Manning went on to give the students encouragement.

"I realize this is a unique time and probably not the ideal way you guys expected to spend your senior year," Manning, who graduated from Tennessee in 1997 with a degree in communication studies, said to the class.

"I just encourage you to keep a positive attitude, keep working like you're doing and try to take advantage of the 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 any way you can."

According to the university, this was the first in a series of online class drop-ins planned throughout the rest of this semester featuring well-known Tennessee alumni, Vols for Life (VFLs) and other friends of the university.

"Most of all, Peyton wanted to lift people's spirits," Haas said. "Vols help Vols, and this is just one of many ways an alum wanted to give back to our students."

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