Knoxville, TN -- Thousands of fans, former Lady Vols, and rival coaches filled Thompson-Boling Arena tonight to remember the life of Pat Summitt. The ceremony gave the public an opportunity to pay their respects to the woman who brought 1,098 wins and eight national titles to the University of Tennessee.
"Welcome to the celebration of Pat Summitt's life, and it's fitting that it's here, in the house that Pat built, on the court that bears her name so fittingly." Robin Roberts said as she kicked off the ceremony. "She is here through the coaches, the players she raised, her beloved family and extended family who she loved so much. And through all of us who benefited through her wisdom."
Robin Roberts was just one of many who spoke about Pat Summitt's life. Others included her son, Tyler Summitt, former players Shelley Sexton-Collier and Tamika Catchings, former colleagues, Mickie DeMoss and Holly Warlick as well as the one and only, Peyton Manning. The stories they shared brought laughter and tears to the crowd.
Her son, Tyler Summitt, wanted to share how big Pat Summitt's heart was, "Behind the scenes, she had three hearts. The heart of a mother, a heart for others and a heart for Jesus Christ." Tyler went on to share how great of a mother she was, and even though she was winning back to back championships, she was still there to watch a 6-year-old Tyler play soccer.
"She was the strongest person I've ever known or that I ever will know."
In Pat Summitt's career, she coached 161 lady vols. Many of them were there tonight to remember the coach that had such a significant impact on their lives. "They will tell you; she was so much more than a coach. She was a friend, she was a mentor, she was family, and to them, she was just Pat." Robin Roberts said as she introduced former Lady Vols Shelley Sexton-Collier and Tamika Catchings.
Many shared a quote they heard Pat Summitt say when referring to battling her disease, "Right foot, left foot, breathe, repeat." Words that show what a positive person she was. "That's her message. That we should be so concerned about others that we don't have time to worry about ourselves." Shelley Sexton-Collier said.
Former assistants to Pat Summitt, Mickie DeMoss and Holly Warlick, became close friends to her and shared how she impacted their lives. "She always said, ‘You're either leading, or you're following. If you're not leading, and you're not following, than you're not doing anything, and I really don't have time for you," DeMoss said.
"To me, the real accomplishment of Pat's life is this, you win 1,098 games, eight national championships and what people talk about, in the end, is not about how much you won, but how much you did for others."
Holly Warlick shared a story about how Pat Summitt was never nervous, but before singing rocky top at the halftime of a mens basketball game, she was pacing back and forth practicing over and over. Warlick played the video and gave fans an opportunity to sing rocky top with Pat Summitt one last time.
"Somehow I think it's ironic that we're celebrating the memory of Pat tonight when it was this terrible disease that stripped her of her memory and ultimately, her life." Peyton Manning talked about Summitt's battle with Alzheimers and the establishment of The Pat Summit Foundation to help find a cure for the awful disease. "There is hope in getting a handle on this crippling disease, but it will take all of us and many more.
If you can honor the memory this woman that we love and admire by supporting the Pat Summitt Foundation built in her name, because when all of us are forgotten, the world will remember our friend Pat Summitt."
The ceremony was closed with the song "I'll fly away" sung by Con Hunley. The ceremony was a perfect mixture of sad and happy along with amazing stories shared by those closest to Summitt.
"This is not a goodbye but an until we meet again," Tamika Catchings.