The NFL has had a number of families who have made their careers in professional football.
For these families, the game has been seemingly passed down from generation to generation.
Names such as Matthews, Hasselbeck, Bosa, Geathers, Hannah, and Long call to mind fathers and sons who played the game at the highest level.
Perhaps the most popular NFL family of the past few decades is the Mannings.
Archie Manning entered the league in 1971 and was a two-time Pro Bowl quarterback.
Then, Archie’s sons, Peyton and Eli, became NFL starters and each won two Super Bowls.
In 800 years every NFL quarterback will be a descendant of Archie Manning. He’s the Abraham of passing. pic.twitter.com/rDMbvaH96r
— Super 70s Sports (@Super70sSports) January 29, 2021
Though he has yet to play at the college level, Archie’s grandson, Arch, is already heralded as the top-rated high school quarterback in the 2023 recruiting class.
For much of Archie Manning’s pro career, the casual observer wouldn’t have thought that he would spawn such prodigious offspring.
As talented as he was, the elder Manning had the distinction of playing on some bad teams and would never experience playoff football.
Instead, he would pass his athletic traits to his sons and witness the thrill of championships through their eyes.
Manning has been a role model for his family as well as a positive example for parents helping their kids navigate the sports world.
This is the story of Archie Manning.
Elisha Archibald Manning III was born on May 19, 1949, in Drew, Mississippi.
His parents, Jane and Elisha Sr. (also known as “Buddy”), were supportive parents who helped cultivate their son’s interests.
Much of Manning’s upbringing was spent helping with his father’s cotton business and playing sports when he could.
Manning’s father supported his son’s sporting pursuits, but could rarely attend games due to his business.
Nevertheless, Manning devoted himself to football, basketball, baseball, and track while attending Drew High School.
Not long after arriving as a freshman, Manning became a starter on the baseball team.
Countless hours of practice would pay off as Manning excelled on the gridiron and baseball diamond.
He was drafted by the Atlanta Braves during the summer after his senior year.
However, Manning’s first love was football.
Long a fan of the University of Mississippi, mainly former Rebels and New York Giants quarterback Charlie Conerly, Manning was excited to receive an athletic scholarship to the university to play for coach Johnny Vaught.
He jumped at the chance to further his education and play for the school of his dreams.
Sudden Passing Nearly Ends Manning’s College Career
Since the NCAA did not allow freshmen to play at the time, Manning spent his first year in Oxford learning Vaught’s playbook and running the freshman squad with precision.
In 1968, Manning became the first sophomore in program history to start at quarterback.
Despite his 17 interceptions and eight touchdown passes, Manning led the Rebels to a 7-3-1 record and a victory over Virginia Tech in the Liberty Bowl.
— SEC Country (@SEC_Country_) August 11, 2014
After his sophomore school year ended, Manning returned home for summer break.
It was during this time that Manning came home one day and found the lifeless body of his father.
Buddy Manning had committed suicide and his death devastated the family.
Overcome with grief, Manning voiced the idea that he should withdraw from school and get a job to support his mother and sister.
His mother dismissed the idea and encouraged her son to return to Ole Miss and get his education.
Record-Setting Day against the Tide
Manning returned to Oxford with a heavy heart but an eye toward getting back to a routine.
The 1969 season would prove to be Manning’s best at Ole Miss as he passed for 1,762 yards, nine touchdowns, and nine interceptions.
He also gained the nickname Archie “Super” Manning for his exploits on the field.
ATTENTION 18 DAYS TIL SEC KICKOFF
Before Peyton and Eil there was #18 Archie Manning throwing bombs at Ole Miss pic.twitter.com/OK5Vmrg1jH
— SEC Slow Smoked (@SECSlowSmoked) August 12, 2018
Early in the year, the Rebels traveled to Alabama to take on the Crimson Tide.
The matchup would be the first nationally televised football game shown during prime time and pitted Manning against Tide quarterback Scott Hunter.
In an era where running was the name of the game, both quarterbacks lit up the night sky as Hunter completed all but seven of his passes for 300 yards.
Meanwhile, Manning wowed the national audience by throwing for 436 yards and two touchdowns while completing 33 of 52 passes.
He also picked up 104 rushing yards and three more scores.
Ultimately, the Rebels would lose the contest 33-32, but Manning’s 540 total yards of offense set a single-game record that would last for 43 years.
His totals also marked the first time that a quarterback passed for over 300 yards and rushed for over 100.
Manning is also one of a dozen players in college football history to rack up 400 passing and 100 rushing yards in a game.
Later in the season, Ole Miss faced the Tennessee Volunteers and a wide swath of Vols fans wearing “Archie Who?” buttons.
— SEC Country (@SEC_Country_) August 16, 2015
Manning took the slight in stride while crushing Tennessee 38-0.
By the end of the year, Manning was a first-team All-American, a first-team All-SEC member, Mississippi Sportsman of the Year, and MVP of the Rebels’ win over Arkansas in the Sugar Bowl.
Manning Finishes his Rebels Career as a Legend
Manning’s senior year in 1970 would produce a 7-4 team record and a berth in the Gator Bowl versus Auburn.
That season Manning passed for 1,481 yards, 14 touchdowns, and 14 interceptions.
Ole Miss QB Archie Manning in 1970. Ladies, try and hold it together. pic.twitter.com/9cZyDt0vop
— SI Vault (@si_vault) October 30, 2014
In a game against Houston, Manning broke his left arm but continued to play the remainder of the year by wearing a plastic sheath to protect the injury.
During the Gator Bowl, Manning scrambled for 95 yards and connected on 19 passes but the Rebels would fall short 35-28.
Once the season concluded, the accolades continued for Manning.
He would again be named a first-team All-American and All-SEC member and would finish third in the Heisman Trophy balloting.
Furthermore, Manning’s number 18 was retired by the school and “18” became the speed limit on campus.
Manning’s collegiate totals include 4,753 passing yards, 31 touchdowns, and 40 interceptions along with 823 rushing yards and 25 touchdowns.
His 56 total touchdowns set a program record at the time and he still holds several school records to this day.
Manning’s triumphs on the football field somewhat obscure the fact that he continued to play baseball while in college.
— SEC Network (@SECNetwork) March 29, 2021
He did well enough that the Chicago White Sox tried drafting him twice and the Kansas City Royals tried as well in 1971.
Almost Late to his Own Party
After his final football game at Ole Miss, Manning immersed himself into his duties as a husband.
He had married his college sweetheart, Olivia, shortly after the season and they honeymooned in Acapulco.
When they returned to the States, the Mannings moved into an apartment in Oxford.
Then one day the phone rang and it was Ole Miss sports information director Billy Gates.
He had called to remind Manning that the NFL Draft was the following day.
Caught up in the afterglow of marriage and honeymoon, Manning had forgotten about the annual event.
“Back then it (the draft) was in January, less than a month after we played in the Gator Bowl, just a couple weeks after I played in the Hula Bowl,” said Manning in 2021.
Gates then proceeded to tell Manning that the top three teams in the ‘71 draft all expressed interest in him.
“The Patriots have called,” Gates told him. “The Saints have called. So have the Houston Oilers. I’m pretty sure one of those three teams is going to pick you.”
Sure enough, after New England selected Stanford’s Jim Plunkett with the first overall pick, the Saints called to let Manning know they selected him with the second pick.
— HUGH DAMN RIGHT (@Rebel_MGK) January 28, 2015
After talking to some of the team executives as well as head coach J.D. Roberts, it was back to business as usual for Manning.
“That was it,” Manning said, laughing. “That was my draft day. I had a 10 o’clock class. I made it to class on time. There just wasn’t a whole lot to it.”
Manning Takes a Lickin’ but Keeps on Tickin’
The New Orleans Saints were just four years old when Manning arrived in 1971.
By then, the franchise had an overall record of 14-40-2.
After training camp ended, Manning hoped to get “a little internship” before being thrown to the wolves.
That didn’t happen. Roberts started Manning in the first game of the season against the LA Rams.
Thankfully, he kept his head and ended up running for the winning score on the game’s final play for an improbable 24-20 upset.
The local media were convinced that Manning was the savior they had been hoping for.
“Too often writers use the word ‘great’ a bit carelessly,” wrote Bob Roesler of the Times-Picayune of New Orleans in 1971. “But when it is attached to Manning’s name it becomes, well, it is not strong enough.”
The Saints then lost two of their next three games while also tying the Oilers.
— Kevin Gallagher (@KevG163) November 1, 2020
In Week 5, Manning and New Orleans shocked the eventual world champion Dallas Cowboys 24-14.
“I’m sure the victory meant a lot more to the players who have been around longer than I have,” said Manning after the game.
Only two more victories would follow as the Saints ended the ‘71 season 4-8-2.
Manning passed for 1,164 yards, six touchdowns, and nine picks and took a beating behind a makeshift offensive line that surrendered a league-high 40 sacks.
The following year, New Orleans finished 2-11-1 while Manning continued to get pounded into the turf 43 times (also a league-high).
— Kevin Gallagher (@KevG163) December 10, 2021
When he wasn’t on his back, Manning’s stats did improve in 1972 as he passed for league highs in attempts (448) and completions (230) for 2,781 yards, 18 touchdowns, and 21 interceptions.
He also ran for his life while rushing for a career-high 351 yards and two rushing scores.
The Hard Times Continue
Unfortunately, for the next several years things didn’t get much better in New Orleans.
Although he rarely missed a game, Manning continued to be a victim of the Saint’s poor roster decisions.
— NFL Classic! (@79_nfl) March 16, 2022
Between 1973 and 1975, he was sacked 103 times including an NFL worst 49 in 1975.
During that same time, the Saints went 12-30 and cycled through head coaches Roberts, John North, and eight-game interim coach Ernie Hefferle.
The beating Manning took during his first five years in the NFL led to him missing all of the 1976 season due to an injured shoulder and corrective surgery.
Recognition at Last
Manning returned from injury and passed for over 1,200 yards, eight touchdowns, and nine interceptions in 1977.
He also rushed for a career-high five touchdowns.
The following season, New Orleans had another new coach in Dick Nolan.
Nolan was Manning’s fifth head coach in his short time in the Big Easy.
Thankfully, the Saints began to improve and finished the 1978 season with a 7-9 record.
Manning benefitted from the turn-around and threw for 3,416 yards, 17 touchdowns, and 16 interceptions.
— NFL Throwback (@nflthrowback) May 20, 2019
1978 marked the first time in his pro career that Manning passed for more touchdowns than interceptions.
Manning was also voted to his first Pro Bowl and he was named the NFC Most Valuable Player by the Sporting News and the NFC Offensive Player of the Year by United Press International.
He also received the Byron “Whizzer” White Humanitarian Award for his work in the community.
In 1979 the Saints were even better than the year before, winning a franchise-best eight games to finish the season at 8-8.
Manning was voted to the Pro Bowl again after passing for 3,169 yards, 15 touchdowns, and 20 picks.
Trade to Houston
1980 would be Manning’s best statistical season when he completed 309 of 509 passes for 3,716 yards, 23 touchdowns, and 20 interceptions.
All categories except interceptions were career bests.
Despite his banner year, Manning received zero recognition and was not voted to the Pro Bowl.
The lack of recognition may have come from the fact that the Saints lost their first 12 games, fired Nolan, and finished the season with interim coach Dick Stanfel getting one win.
New Orleans’ 1-15 record was the worst in franchise history and continues to be a low point to this day.
In 1981 the team hired former Houston Oilers coach Bum Phillips and Phillips began to clean house.
Manning started 11 games and passed for 1,447 yards, five touchdowns, and 11 picks.
Before the 1982 season, Phillips and the Saints signed former Raiders and Oilers quarterback Ken Stabler.
The signing meant that Manning’s days were numbered and he was benched.
OTD in 1982, the Oilers trade disgruntled tackle Leon Gray to the Saints for QB Archie Manning
Manning only learned of the trade 2 hours before it happened & took it hard. He was booed loudly by the Superdome crowd during a poor performance in the second half a few days before. pic.twitter.com/jlg3wtC7xv
— 𝕃𝕦𝕧 𝕐𝕒 𝔹𝕝𝕦𝕖 (@BudsOilers) September 17, 2021
With Stabler entrenched as the starter, New Orleans decided to part with their former top pick and traded Manning to Houston in September.
“It’s a tough decision,” said Phillips, “an especially tough decision when you’re talking about a guy like Archie who’s been here so long.”
Manning was shocked by the move but viewed it as a new beginning.
“It’s kind of tough,” Manning said. “I’ve been here so long. I’m just going to look at it as something good and go over there and make a fresh start. It’s the only thing I know to do.”
The Oilers gave Manning five starts and he ended the tumultuous year with 877 yards, six touchdowns, and six interceptions with Houston.
Manning began the 1983 season as Houston’s starter, passing for 755 yards, two touchdowns, and eight picks.
He was then abruptly traded again, this time to the Minnesota Vikings, in late September.
The Vikings had lost starter Tommy Kramer for the year due to injury and Manning was signed to back up Steve Dils.
Part of the trade included tight-end Dave Casper, who had played with Oakland and with Manning in Houston.
”They’re both established players,” Minnesota coach Bud Grant said of Manning and Casper. ”We feel we’re in contention for a championship in our division.”
Instead, the Vikings went 8-8 and Manning never played a down for Minnesota that year.
In 1984, he would start two games for the Vikings and appear in four others as Manning passed for 545 yards, two touchdowns, and three interceptions for 3-13 Minnesota.
Archie Manning in a rare photo where he is upright in 1984. He started 2 games and was sacked 18 times in those two games! pic.twitter.com/cSzLzmQfwp
— VikeFans (@VikeFans) June 5, 2021
When the season concluded, Manning decided to retire.
During his 13-year playing career, Manning passed for 23,911 yards, 125 touchdowns, and 173 picks.
Additionally, he rushed for 2,197 yards and 18 scores.
Manning was voted to two Pro Bowls and would later be placed in the Saints’ Ring of Honor and Hall of Fame.
Although he was only 35-101-3 as a starter, Manning reflected on his career with fondness.
“I guess I could be over in Drew raising pigs,” Manning told a Mississippi newspaper in 1984. “Really, a lot of good things have happened. It’s been a good trip, and I’ve enjoyed it.”
After retiring, Manning worked as an analyst for Saints radio and television broadcasts as well as a commentator for CBS Sports college football broadcasts.
He also became a pitchman for various products in Louisiana and became a spokesman for UPS in 2007.
In 1989 Manning was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame.
He is also a member of the halls of fame for Mississippi Sports, Ole Miss Sports, Gator Bowl, Greater New Orleans, Louisiana Sports, and the National Quarterback Club.
Manning was voted Mississippi’s Greatest All-Time Athlete in 1992, and he was named Mississippi’s Most Popular Athlete of the Century.
Manning’s biggest contribution, however, has come from his sons.
Archie Manning’s sons have won four Super Bowls despite Archie himself looking like a punter with a 39.7 average. pic.twitter.com/9XZTmJtdRU
— Super 70s Sports (@Super70sSports) June 12, 2021
While still playing in the NFL, Archie and Olivia gave birth to sons Cooper, Peyton, and Eli.
All three played football and the elder Manning doted on his family every moment he could.
In return, the Manning boys grew up wearing Ole Miss shirts and jerseys
Before his senior year of high school, Cooper Manning was diagnosed with spinal stenosis, which ended his dreams of playing college and pro football.
He has become successful in the business world and is a partner in a successful energy investment firm.
Peyton would spurn Ole Miss and play quarterback at the University of Tennesse, then play 18 years in the NFL, winning two Super Bowls as a member of the Indianapolis Colts and Denver Broncos.
He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2021.
Eli Manning followed in his father’s footsteps and attended Ole Miss as a heralded quarterback, then spent 16 years in the NFL and won two Super Bowls as a member of the New York Giants.
Happy 72nd birthday to Archie Manning, one of my good friends in the business of football. I wonder what great things those boys of yours will accomplish in their lives. pic.twitter.com/xhli8f34QR
— Gil Brandt (@Gil_Brandt) May 19, 2021
The latest Manning super athlete is Cooper’s son, Arch, who is currently the top-rated quarterback in the 2023 recruiting class.
Although he could dispense with a life’s worth of advice, the elder Manning has stayed out of his grandson’s recruiting process.
“We’re proud of Arch,” the eldest Manning said. “It really doesn’t mean anything to me for him to be the No. 1 recruit in the nation. I think that puts a lot of added pressure. The recruiting world has changed, and college football has changed a lot. The best thing for me, as grandpa, is I stay out of it.”
In the meantime, the Manning men work together each summer hosting their Manning Passing Academy.
The academy helps develop football players in grades 8-12 who work with high school coaches and college football players from around the country.
It’s a way for the Mannings to help inspire up-and-coming football phenoms to realize their own dreams of success.