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The Manning Empire of Football

Chances are if you’re a football fan, you’ve heard the last name Manning before. As one of the most notable families in professional football, you can’t help but love them. From death and “betrayal” in the family, to a lifelong career in sports, here’s a rundown on the Manning family.

Archie Manning III: The Start of it All

Photo Courtesy of Nate Fine/Getty Images

Elisha Archibald Manning III was born in 1949 in the small town of Drew, Mississippi, to Jane and Elisha Manning. Archie led a busy life as a child, from partaking in church activities to competing in numerous sports—and it paid off. By the time he graduated high school in 1967, he earned valedictorian honors, a football scholarship to the University of Mississippi, and was drafted to play professional baseball for the Atlanta Braves. While many would have gone with a straight shot to the MLB, Archie’s true love was football.

In the summer of 1967, he headed to Ole Miss to play football under coach Johnny Vaught. At this time, freshmen were not able to compete per NCAA regulations, but Archie made an impact as the first sophomore to start at quarterback in program history. His sophomore season led the Rebels to a 7-3-1 record, earning just eight touchdown passes. Archie faced great adversity off the gridiron when tragedy struck back home. The summer before his junior year, Archie had found his father after he took his own life. This took a huge toll on Archie—so much so that he contemplated quitting football to move home to support his mom and sister. However, Jane Manning wouldn’t have that. With firm disapproval from Jane, Archie returned to Ole Miss for what would be his best season. In Archie's 1969 season, he passed for 1,762 yards, nine touchdowns, and nine interceptions. The prime-time college football legacy began this same year with a game between Ole Miss and Alabama. Archie would ultimately fall short of the Crimson Tide, but the statistics remain remarkable. His completion of 436 passing yards combined with 104 rushing yards made for 540 total offensive yards—holding the SEC total offense record for 43 years.

With the second overall pick of the 1971 NFL Draft, the New Orleans Saints drafted Archie Manning to the National Football League. During the 1971 season, Archie started 10 of the 12 games he played as a rookie. His sophomore season was where he truly succeeded, completing 230 of 448 passes for 2,781 yards and 18 touchdowns. Archie’s numbers for attempts and completions led the league in the 1972 season, despite the team’s 2-11 record. In all, Archie played for the Saints for ten full seasons, later playing for the Houston Oilers and Minnesota Vikings towards the end of his career until he retired in 1984.

The Manning Legacy Continues

After marrying his college sweetheart, Olivia, Archie became a father to three sons: Cooper, Peyton, and Eli. All three of the Manning brothers played high school football at Isidore Newman School, with Cooper being a wide receiver, and Peyton and Eli at quarterback.

Photo Courtesy of Bill Frakes for Sports Illustrated

Cooper had committed to play at Ole Miss, just like his father, but his career ended before it could even begin. While at practice, Cooper felt a numbing sensation in his fingers and toes. He went to the hospital to find out he had spinal stenosis—a condition that puts pressure on the spinal cord and nerves within the spine. This medical catastrophe would prevent Cooper from playing the sport ever again.

Peyton would be the next Manning to reach collegiate football, and being highly sought after, he had quite the choice to make. Ole Miss, Tennessee, Florida, and Michigan were the schools it came down to for Peyton. According to the Knoxville News-Sentinel, he explained that if he went to Ole Miss, he would be regarded as a celebrity without even doing anything. Peyton contemplated Michigan just to get out of the Southeastern Conference but ultimately said Tennessee felt like home. Peyton went on to lead an illustrious career in Knoxville, finishing as the SEC’s all-time leading passer with 11,201 yards and holding 40 other records between the NCAA, SEC, and Tennessee. He would go on to be the first overall pick of the 1998 NFL Draft, joining the Indianapolis Colts.

Eli was also recruited by numerous college football teams. Keeping the family tradition alive, he chose Ole Miss. His first season was very anticlimactic due to the QB spot being taken by a senior. He appeared in only six games, throwing for 170 yards and 16 completions—although, no touchdowns. Things would begin looking up during his sophomore season as he secured the starting position, ending the season with a 63% completion rate. He ended his career as a Rebel with 10,119 passing yards and 84 passing touchdowns, also holding over 3 dozen records at Ole Miss. Eli was selected by the San Diego Chargers in the 2004 NFL Draft as the first overall pick but was later traded to the New York Giants.

Professional Highlights

Peyton and Eli went on to be very successful in the NFL.

Peyton spent 13 seasons with the Colts, winning eight division titles, two AFC championships, and one Super Bowl championship in 2007. During the 2006 season, Peyton threw for 4,397 yards and 31 touchdowns, carrying the Colts to their pinnacle of success. Super Bowl XLI would be a showdown between the Indianapolis Colts and the Chicago Bears, ending with a 29-17 win led by Peyton. This performance landed him the well-earned honors of Super Bowl MVP. During the 2011 season, Peyton suffered a neck injury and was released by the Colts. He became a highly sought-after free agent—choosing to continue his career with the Denver Broncos. His first season earned Denver an AFC West division title, throwing for 4,659 yards and 37 touchdowns. This season would also earn him NFL Comeback Player of the Year honors. Peyton’s sophomore season as a Bronco was even more impressive, as he broke the single-season passing yards and touchdown pass records with 5,477 and 55, respectively. He was able to lead the team to the Super Bowl XLVIII but fell short to the Seahawks. As his athleticism wound down, Peyton managed one more Super Bowl appearance in 2016, beating the Panthers. Just one month later, Peyton would announce his retirement from the NFL after 18 years. He is often regarded as one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time.

Photo courtesy of Getty Images

Little brother, Eli, had his NFL debut with the New York Giants in 2004 and never looked back. He spent his entire professional career with the Giants—in fact, he never missed a game due to injury and also holds a 210 consecutive start streak, although his career didn’t have an easy start. Comparisons to Peyton were inevitable. Eli struggled in his first couple of seasons, going 20-21 and losing two playoff games. The second half of the 2007 season is where things started to change for Eli. Finishing 10-6, the Giants were able to clinch a playoff spot and ended up winning the NFC title that season. But it doesn’t stop there—-Eli led the Giants to Super Bowl XLII against the undefeated Patriots. In a last-minute turn of events, the Giants took the lead 17-14 on a touchdown pass with 35 seconds to spare. In 2012, history would repeat itself: Super Bowl XLVI would be between the Giants and the Patriots again… with the same result. Eli won the honor of Super Bowl MVP in both of his appearances, being one of only five to do so. The latter years of Eli’s career were unimpressive due to a poor defense and a consistent losing record. During the 2019 NFL Draft, the Giants drafted QB Daniel Jones, presumed to be Eli’s replacement. Eli and Jones split the starting position in 2019, and in the offseason, Eli announced his retirement. Like his older brother, Eli held position on many quarterback record leaderboards.

Photo Courtesy of USA Today Sports

The Manning family is objectively one of the greatest families in professional sports. After leading multiple successful collegiate and professional careers, the Mannings all have respective careers in the sports industry to this day. The story isn’t over yet, though. Arch Manning, quarterback at Texas, still has history to make in the sport of football.

Photo Courtesy of Chris Granger/Associated Press

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