A Lifelong Legacy of Football
If the game of football is ever in the market for an ambassador, it ought to take a long and hard look in the direction of Archie Manning. Few individuals have left a more indelible and positive imprint on the sport over the past four decades.
Not long after becoming the Ole Miss starting quarterback in 1968, the Manning name became synonymous with football. Archie authored a brilliant, two-time All-American career in Oxford, laying the groundwork for eventual induction into the College Football Hall of Fame. The second overall player chosen in the 1971 NFL Draft would go on to play 14 seasons as a professional, the majority in New Orleans. While he set numerous passing records as a member of the Saints, his potential was severely stunted by an inadequate supporting cast, particularly from the offensive line.
Manning hasn’t taken a snap since 1984, yet his contributions to the game have never waned. Heck, as gifted as he was on the field, a compelling argument can be made that he’s been even more valuable away from it. And for that reason, he is the 23rd annual Reds Bagnell Award recipient, given to that person, who through his efforts, has helped to foster and promote the integrity of the game of football.
At his core, Manning is a generous man, a humble individual who has long relished the opportunity to give back to the game and to the communities that meant so much to him during his formative years. While in the NFL, he received the Byron “Whizzer” White Humanitarian Award, the Bart Starr Humanitarian Award and the Spirit of Good Sports Award from the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association, testaments to an unselfish, holistic athlete. Six years ago, he garnered the Legends award from the Davey O’Brien Foundation and the Aspire award, a tribute to life’s coaches, from the Cal Ripken Foundation. Both he and his wife Olivia have essentially devoted their lives to philanthropy, volunteerism and assisting those in need.
“It all begins with Archie and Olivia,” offered family friend and Ole Miss senior associate AD Emeritus Langston Rogers. “It is amazing how this family is able to touch so many lives in such a caring and positive manner. The example they set is one we should all strive to follow.”
Today, among Manning’s multitude of titles and duties is the chairman of the National Football Foundation, an organization dedicated to promoting the power of amateur football in developing the qualities of leadership, sportsmanship, competitive zeal and the drive for academic excellence in America’s young people. And in a poetic coincidence, an organization that Bagnell himself was elected the president of in 1990. No one is better suited to carry out the aforementioned mission statement than Archie, who has lived his life and, along with Olivia, raised three boys that embody the tenets of the NFF. Cooper has a burgeoning career with Howard Weil, an energy investment banking firm. Peyton is an 11-time Pro Bowler, and a former Super Bowl MVP. Eli is a two-time Pro Bowler, and a two-time Super Bowl MVP. All three of the boys, just like mom and dad, have been unstinting and passionate leaders within their respective communities.
“We now have the Peyton Manning Children’s Hospital in Indianapolis and the Eli Manning Children’s Clinic at the University of Mississippi,” said Archie Manning, with obvious pride. “I told the boys that was their finest hour. Growing up, I’d see my dad lending a hand to new people moving into the neighborhood, and that always stuck with me. It’s fun to get involved, and I believe it’s my job to be a part of a larger community”.
Now in the early stages of his sixth decade, Archie’s work in the game of football—and the game of life—is far from over. More charities to support. More lives to impact. More on-air analysis to provide for CBS. And more wisdom to impart, both to his sons and to the sons of countless moms and dads from around the country, especially those who send their boys to the Manning Passing Academy for four days each July in Louisiana. For so many reasons and by so many measurements, Manning has been the American ideal—a legendary athlete, a successful businessman and broadcaster and the kind of dad that warrants emulation.
“Archie and Olivia represent an excellent model as to how to raise your children,” Rogers said. “Family has always come first and they all remain humble and grateful for those who have influenced their lives. This really comes into focus when you consider what they do for others through charitable and civic causes, especially for the health care of children. It truly does transcend all the athletic accomplishments they have achieved over the years.”
For Manning and his entire family, it’s been a storybook ride, with new passengers getting on board all the time. Archie’s lifelong dedication to the game of football and to the many people who’ve benefitted from his generosity continues to endure more than a quarter-century after he retired from the game as a player.
National Football Foundation (NFF) Chairman