Before there was Peyton and Eli, there was Archie

By Wren Culp
Staff Writer

Archie Manning was the former quarterback of the New Orleans Saints and the Ole Miss Rebels  *Photo courtesy of Ole Miss Athletic Department
Archie Manning was the former quarterback of the New Orleans Saints and the Ole Miss Rebels. (Photo courtesy of Ole Miss Athletic Department)

If you follow the NFL, you know the Manning brothers. But a true football fan knows who their father Archie Manning is. The former New Orleans Saints and Ole Miss Rebels quarterback visited with The Sidekick on Monday afternoon.

Two brothers both starting at the quarterback position for two powerhouse NFL teams. Peyton Manning is quarterback for the Indianapolis Colts, where he led his team to a Super Bowl victory in 2006. His younger brother Eli Manning leads the New York Giants, where he won a championship in 2007.

Many younger fans do not know that the talent and athletic ability runs in the family. Archie Manning played 13 seasons in the NFL, 10 being with the New Orleans Saints, and then concluded his career with one year with the Houston Oilers then another year with the Minnesota Vikings. Manning became an icon as the starting quarterback for the Ole Miss Rebels.

Manning never had a winning season. Manning’s career record was 35-101-3, the worst in NFL history for a quarterback with at least 100 starts. Yet Manning won NFC Player of the Year in 1978, leading the league in pass attempts and completions, went to the Pro Bowl in 1978 and 1979, and raised three boys with his wife Olivia. Manning’s oldest son Cooper was also diagnosed with “Spinal Stenosis” which is a narrowing of the spinal cord, in high school which ended his high school football career.

“I really don’t know how I did all that,” Manning said. “It sounds a lot harder when you say it but to me back then it was manageable.”

Raising three boys in a city where you are the star appears to be a daunting task. But Archie and Olivia had one simple rule for their children.

“I just told them to be like everybody else,” Manning said. “We tried to make everything as normal for them as possible, and it worked most of the time.”

Manning was the celebrity of the New Orleans at the time of his playing days, since the NBA’s New Orleans Hornets had not come to the city until 2002. Even though the Saints never had a winning season with Archie behind center, the people of the town loved him.

Archie found his love for football in high school when he joined the football program at Drew High School, which is in the Northwestern part of Mississippi.

“I grew up by the school so I was very active in everything around those parts. My parents loved the coaches and when you grow up in a small town like Drew, it’s hard not to know who somebody is.”

After high school Archie attended the University of Mississippi, where he started on the varsity squad for three years straight. In Manning’s first prime time broadcast at Ole Miss, Manning threw for 436 yards and three touchdowns, also rushing for 104 yards, in a 33-32 loss to Alabama. The 540-yard performance is still tied for the most yards by a single player in an SEC game.

Manning was drafted in 1971 by the Saints with the second overall pick.

“That football team went through some rough times,” Manning said. “But it’s the quarterback’s responsibility to turn the team around. I wanted to see brighter days in New Orleans, so I stuck with them.”

Thirty-eight years and three sons later, Manning still resides in New Orleans.

“At the moment I am a business consultant you could say,” Manning said. “I also do some motivational speaking for companies and sports teams.”

Recently the Manning family wrote a children’s book which was released on October 30. The story is about how Peyton, Eli, and Cooper would play football at their grandmother’s house. It also teaches the morals of brotherhood and friendship

“It’s basically about the games that they would play with each other at the grandmother’s house in Mississippi,” Manning said. “And what’s neat is that we have partnered with Scholastic and we are donating most of the money made off of the book to kids with Systic Fibrosis.”

Peyton and Eli are the stars right now, but they are not the first Mannings to be considered the best in the game.

To read a Q&A with Archie, click here.