What one family has one current and two former football legends and all-stars? The Mannings. Archie Manning and his two out of his three sons, Peyton Manning and Eli Manning, have or still do play in the NFL, and the eldest son Cooper’s career was cut short before college due to injury. They have combined for twenty Pro Bowl selections, and Peyton and Eli have won two Super Bowls each. They have accomplished much more in the game football, but even more in the game of life.
Elisha Archibald “Archie” Manning III was born on May 19, 1949, to Jane Nelson and Elisha Archibald Manning, Jr., in Drew, Mississippi. Growing up, sports were his main interest; he competed in football, basketball, baseball and track. His father was interested in his athletic activities, but had little time because of his job. His mother, however, could always be found at his sporting events. Archie was most impressive in football and baseball; he was selected in the MLB Draft four times by three different teams before he played in the NFL (National Football League.) However, football was his priority; he attended The University of Mississippi, or Ole Miss, to play football. During his freshman year at Ole Miss, he played freshman football and wasn’t in the spotlight; however, in his sophomore year, he was the Rebels’ starting quarterback. He led the Rebels to a 7-3-1 (wins-losses-ties) record in his first year as the starting quarterback. Everyone was excited for his junior campaign. However, during the summer of 1969 before his junior season, he discovered his father had committed suicide. He was the one who found him; he considered dropping out of school to get a job and support his mother and sister, but his mother convinced him not to put his football talents and career to waste. The choice to return to college was a good one, and Archie had plenty of time in the spotlight. In the first ever nationally televised college football game against Alabama in 1969, Manning threw for 436 yards, three touchdowns, and also ran for 104 yards; however, Alabama got the win, 33-32. The loss was one out of two one-point losses in the 1969 football season for Ole Miss. Manning went on to lead the Rebels to an 8-3 record and a 27-22 Sugar Bowl victory over Arkansas. In Archie’s senior year in 1970, the team started out 7-1. However, in the seventh game of the season, against Houston in the Rebels’ homecoming game, Archie broke his arm. Ole Miss won the next week; however, it ended the season with three straight losses. In the 1970 Gator Bowl against Auburn, Archie, although not at 100% percent healthy, returned; he broke his left arm and was right-handed. Auburn started the game out with a 21-0 lead, but Archie and the Rebels’ comeback wasn’t good enough, with Auburn winning 35-28. Manning threw for 180 yards, two touchdowns, an interception, and 95 rush yards. With Archie’s college career over, it was time for the NFL Draft. He was selected number two overall in the draft by the New Orleans Saints, where he played for 10 full seasons. However, his tenure with the Saints was a nightmare. The team had nine losing seasons, and only managed to get to a .500 record once, in 1979. With the Saints, Archie was sacked 340 times. With a poor offensive line, some of his opposition on the defensive line admitted it taking it easy on Manning and not hitting him as hard, and helping him get back up. In 1972, although the team finished 2-11-1, Manning led the NFL in passing completions and attempts and led the NFC (National Football Conference) in passing yards. The next 3 years, from 1973-75, the Saints’ struggles continued. Manning sat out in the 1976 season after surgery on his right shoulder. In 1978 and ‘79, Manning was named to his only career Pro Bowls, and was the NFC Offensive Player of the Year in 1978, in which he threw for over 3,400 yards and seventeen touchdowns; he was also sacked thirty-six times. In 1979, he threw for over 3,100 yards and 15 touchdowns. In 1980, he threw a career-high twenty-three touchdowns, but in 1981-82 with the Saints, he played a total of just thirteen games and only five touchdowns. During the ‘82 season, New Orleans traded Manning to the Houston Oilers, where he finished the rest of the season and the 1983 season. With the Oilers, he played in just nine games total, while throwing for eight touchdowns. In 1983, Manning was traded again, this time to the Minnesota Vikings. He finished the ‘83 season with Minnesota and played the entire 1984 season with the team before retiring. With the Vikings, he played a total of six games with just two touchdowns. In his entire NFL career, Archie completed over 2,000 passes, threw for nearly 24,000 yards (23,911), 125 passing touchdowns, and a dismal 173 interceptions.
Archie Manning met future homecoming queen Olivia Williams while at Ole Miss. The two married in 1971, and had three sons: Cooper, Peyton, and Eli, who were born in 1974, 1976, and 1981 respectively. Archie and Olivia currently reside in New Orleans, Louisiana, and they own a condo in Oxford, MS. Archie, with the help of his three sons, high school coaches, and college players, hosts the Manning Passing Academy every summer for boys in grades 8-12. Manning was awarded the Silver Buffalo Award, which is the highest award given for service to youth, in 2007 for hosting the Academy. He was also one of the thirteen original members of the College Football Playoff Selection Committee, although he later stepped down due to health concerns. Manning’s number, 18, was retired by Ole Miss, and, although not officially retired, no Saints player has worn number 8 since Archie played. He was named to the College Football Hall of Fame in 1989, and at Ole Miss the speed limit is 18 (his jersey number) and some speed limits are 10 (Eli’s jersey number.) Archie, however, isn’t the family’s only football gem.
Cooper Manning was born in 1974 and was Archie and Olivia’s first of three sons. In his senior year playing receiver at Isidore Newman High School in New Orleans, he had a breakout year. His brother Peyton was also the sophomore starting quarterback. Cooper was an all-state receiver, and broke several team records (most were later broken by Odell Beckham, Jr., who currently plays for Cooper’s youngest brother Eli Manning and the New York Giants in the NFL.) Cooper was recruited heavily by many schools, but he signed with his father’s alma mater Ole Miss. However, during his senior high school basketball season, he noticed something was wrong with him. Then, during Ole Miss’ summer practices, he felt finger and toe numbness; he went to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, where he was diagnosed with spinal stenosis. Just like that, before playing a game in a Rebel uniform, his football career was over. He had major surgery, had to learn how to walk again, and was told that he played most of his football career one wrong hit away from being paralyzed. When asked what he missed most about football, Cooper said, “I think what I miss most about football is...the guys. Not winning, or losing or catching touchdowns. It was like, the locker room and the bus rides home.” Cooper is currently the host of “The Manning Hour” on FOX Sports, and is a partner of an energy investment boutique. He married Ellen Heidingsfelder in 1999 and has three children. However, a College Football Hall of Fame quarterback and a receiver with a bright future cut short weren’t the only two football players in the Manning family. The middle and youngest brother have both played to honor Cooper, and both have had great careers.
Peyton Williams Manning was born on March 24, 1976. Like his father and older brother, he had a love for sports growing up. Although he didn’t play contact football until seventh grade, he was a high school star. He had a 34-5 record as a starter, and completed 452 passes for 7,207 yards, and 92 touchdowns in his high school career. He also won several major awards, including Gatorade National Player of the Year. He also wore number 18 after Cooper retired to honor him. Peyton was heavily recruited, and, to many’s shock, signed with The University of Tennessee. He was recruited by Ole Miss, his father’s alma mater, and angered Rebel fans when he signed with Tennessee. Archie supported his son’s decision because it was his choice, and Archie and Peyton both received many threats. However, at Tennessee, Peyton shined. He started out on the bench, but in his freshmen season, two quarterbacks ahead of him on the depth chart were injured. He was 7-1 as a starter, and the team was 8-4 overall with a win in the Gator Bowl 45-23 over Virginia Tech. His sophomore campaign was even better. The Vols (short for Tennessee Volunteers) finished the season 11-1 with a win in the Citrus Bowl over Ohio State, 20-14. The only loss was to Florida, which came back from a 30-21 halftime lead to win 62-37. Peyton completed 244 passes for nearly 3,000 yards, 22 touchdowns, and just 4 interceptions. In his highly-anticipated junior season, Tennessee went 10-2 with another Citrus Bowl win, this time over Northwestern 48-28. The Vols were considered championship contenders to start the season, but another loss to Florida and an upset by Memphis ended their title hopes. Manning had another stellar season, with 243 completions for 3,287 yards and 20 touchdowns. The team had two wins of 40+ points against SEC schools, one against the number 7 team in the country Alabama, and a 41-3 win over his father’s alma mater, Ole Miss, 41-3. After his junior year, he earned his degree and was NFL Draft-eligible. He was projected to be the top pick, but he decided to return for his senior season at Tennessee. The Vols started the season 2-0 before going to Gainesville, Florida, to face the Florida Gators in a revenge game for the Vols. However, the Manning-led Volunteers couldn’t pull it off, and Peyton dropped to 0-3 vs Florida as a starter. Tennessee, however, won the remaining 8 games on the schedule to finish 10-1 and secure a berth in the SEC Championship Game against Auburn. Peyton threw 4 touchdowns en route to 30-29 win. Tennessee then headed to Miami, FL, to play number 2 Nebraska in the Orange Bowl. However, Tennessee’s defense gave up more than 400 yards rushing, and Nebraska got the win. Peyton’s college career was over. He threw for 11,201 yards off of 863 completions and 89 touchdowns. He won several major college awards throughout his career, including but not limited to the Maxwell Award, Davey O’Brien Award, SEC Freshman of the Year, SEC Player of the Year, and All-American. He also broke 28 school records. Then, with the first pick in the 1998 NFL Draft, Peyton was selected by the Indianapolis Colts, where he played from 1998-2011. Although the team had a 3-13 record, Peyton threw for 3,739 yards with 26 touchdowns,and set five NFL rookie records as a rookie. In his second season, the team had a huge turn around, going 13-3; however, the team lost in the second round of the playoffs. Manning finished the year with 4,135 passing yards and 26 passing touchdowns, was named Second-team All-Pro and to his first career Pro Bowl, in which he passed for 270 yards with 2 touchdowns. From 2000-2005, the Colts still only made it to the AFC Championship game once. Peyton got his first two career MVPs in 2003-04, and led the NFL in touchdown passes with 49 in ‘04. Then, in 2006, Peyton lead his team to a Super Bowl win over the Chicago Bears, 29-17. Manning was named the Super Bowl MVP. The following seasons, in 2007, Peyton threw for over 4,000 yards, in 2008, he won his third MVP, and in 2009 he won his fourth MVP and led his team to another Super Bowl, but lost 31-17 to the New Orleans Saints. In 2010, Peyton set an NFL record with 450 completions and a career-high 4700 passing yards in a season. The 2010 playoff loss to the New York Jets was also the last time Peyton would wear a Colts uniform. He sat out the entire 2011 campaign after neck surgery. He was released by the Colts and signed with the Denver Broncos. Denver won four straight division titles, and in 2013, Peyton threw for an NFL-record 55 touchdowns. In 2014, Manning led Denver to the Super Bowl, but the Seattle Seahawks came out on top. Then, in 2015, Manning got his first Super Bowl with Denver and second overall to improve to 2-2 in championship games. Peyton later announced his retirement after an 18-year career. He was a 14x Pro Bowler, a 5-time MVP, Comeback Player of the Year in 2012, Super Bowl MVP, along with other awards. He also broke over 30 NFL records and finished his career with 71,940 passing yards and 539 touchdowns in the regular season. In the postseason, he threw for 7,339 yards and 40 touchdowns. He is considered by many to be one of the best quarterbacks of all time and a future Hall of Famer.
Peyton married his wife, Ashley Thompson in 2001. In 2011, she gave birth to twins. But the Manning family still has one more star: the youngest son of Archie and Olivia and current quarterback of the New York Giants, Eli Manning.
Elisha Nelson “Eli” Manning was born on January 3, 1981. Like his brothers before him, he attended Isidore Newman High School and played quarterback. He also donned the family number, 18. He was heavily recruited out of high school, but, unlike Peyton, there was no controversy in his decision. Eli said he was going to Ole Miss “since the start.” His father’s number 18 was retired, so he chose to have his own number, 10. In his freshman season, he didn’t play much. Then, in the 2000 Music City Bowl against West Virginia, Ole Miss was down 49-16. Eli came in to throw three touchdowns, but the comeback fell short, 49-38. People knew that the next three years were going to be special with Eli, and if there was another quarter against West Virginia, Ole Miss might have won. In his sophomore year, Eli led the Rebels to a 7-4 record; however, the team was not selected to a bowl game. Eli also broke the school record for passing touchdowns in a season with 31. In his junior season, Eli led the Rebels with 3,401 passing yards and 21 touchdowns. Ole Miss started the 2002 season out 5-1. However, it ended the regular season 1-5 and 6-6 overall. Ole Miss went to the Independence Bowl to square off against Nebraska. The Rebels got a 27-23 to finish with 7-6 winning record. In his highly-anticipated senior season, Ole Miss finished the regular season 9-3 to earn a berth in the Cotton Bowl vs. Oklahoma State. Eli led the team to a victory and its first ten-win season since 1971. Eli had brought the program back to where it was with his father. It didn’t come with Cooper, it didn’t come with Peyton, but it was Eli who brought the Ole Miss football program back to relevancy. Eli broke 47 school records while at Ole Miss, most of which belonged to Archie. He won the 2003 Maxwell Award and 2001 and ‘03 Conerly Trophy for the best player in Mississippi. In the 2004 NFL Draft, he was selected number 1 overall by the San Diego Chargers, but was traded to the New York Giants, where he has, so far, played his entire 13-year career. He holds numerous Giants franchise records, including passing yards and touchdowns, and has won two Super Bowls with the team. Both Super Bowls were against the New England Patriots, in 2007-08 and 2011-12, with final scores of 17-14 and 21-17 respectively. Throughout his career, he has thrown for 45,975 yards off of 3,846 completions and 302 touchdowns. He is a 4x Pro Bowler and 2x Super Bowl MVP. And his career isn’t yet over.
Helping the Community
The Mannings have donated millions to charity. Peyton has his own charity organization, the Peyback Foundation, which is for Hurricane Katrina victims and disadvantaged children. Eli hosts a charity golf tournament in New York which raises over $500,000 annually.
It isn’t hard to see why the Mannings are considered football’s royal family. Three college football and NFL legends and a young star with a bright future ended short make for an excellent football family. They are more than football; they help out the community, are devoted Christians, and are loving, family people. “I wanted to hug my kids… I wanted to tell them I loved them,” said Archie.