NEW ORLEANS, La. – A half century after wrapping up his career as one of the all-time greats in college football history Archie Manning continues to be one of the game’s greatest ambassadors.
Manning currently serves on the board of the National Football Foundation. He joined the group in 1993 and became the chairman of the NFF in 2007 and is instrumental in the selection of new College Football Hall of Fame members each year.
This year’s group of 15 former coaches and players were announced on Jan. 11.
“This year’s group represents all that is right about football,” said Manning.
Among the newly elected members are David Fulcher (Arizona State), Carson Palmer (Southern California), Darren Sproles (Kansas State), Andre Tippett (Iowa) and Tony Romo (Eastern Illinois). Former Florida A&M coach Rudy Hubbard and Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops were also elected.
The new hall of famers will take part in ceremonies Dec. 7 in Atlanta, the site of the College Football Hall of Fame.
The NFF also helps provide scholarships to deserving high school athletes from around the country each year through local chapters of the organization.
Manning, a multi-sport high school standout, grew up in Drew, Mississippi and moved 80 miles up the road to Oxford to play for legendary coach John Vaught at the University of Mississippi. He developed a close bond with Vaught and that bond grew deeper after Manning’s father, Buddy, died following Manning’s sophomore season with the Rebels.
“Coach Vaught filled that role in a big way,” said Manning, who would enjoy many rounds of golf with his former coach before his death in 2006.
Manning started three seasons for the Rebels and became a household name in 1969 against Alabama in the first national prime time broadcast of a college football game. He threw for 436 yard and three touchdowns and rushed for 104 yards in the game. The Crimson Tide edged the Rebels 33-32 to win the game.
Manning and the Rebels compiled a record of 22-10-1 (.682) during his time as the starter. He threw for 4,753 yards and 31 touchdowns and rushed for 823 yards in his career at the school. He was voted to the All-SEC team in each of his final two seasons. He was fourth in the voting for the Heisman Trophy in 1969 and was third the following year.
“I loved playing at Ole Miss,” he said. “It was a great thrill to be the quarterback at Ole Miss and I have a lot of great memories of my time there.”
The school continues to honor his impact and legacy. His No. 18 jersey has been retired by the school which has established a speed limit of 18 miles per hour on campus.
Manning was voted the SEC quarterback of the quarter century (1950-75) by several publications. He was also voted to the College Football Hall of Fame in 1989.
New Orleans selected Manning with the second overall pick in the 1971 NFL Draft that capped a whirlwind period of time in the life of the college football legend..
“The draft was nothing back then like it is today,” said Manning, who was married following the 1971 season to the former Olivia Williams, a former Ole Miss Homecoming Queen. “I got married in December and we had a short honeymoon and was planning on graduating and getting into coaching and had forgotten about the draft.”
The day before the draft got underway on Jan. 28, 1971 the Ole Miss sports information director telephoned Manning to ask about his intentions for the draft. The next day the Saints picked him after the Boston Patriots selected Heisman Trophy winner Jim Plunkett (Stanford) with the No. 1 pick.
Other notable players that were selected in the first round that year included John Riggins, who went to the New York Jets with the No. 6 pick and Jack Tatum (No. 19 to Oakland), as well as Jack Youngblood (No. 20 to the Los Angeles Rams). Tatum was a standout safety at Ohio State while Youngblood played defensive end at Florida before enjoying a number of successful years in the National Football League.
Manning and Youngblood enjoyed a unique relationship during their pro careers.
“(Youngblood) was nice enough to pick me every time he knocked my ass off,” Manning said during his playing days as a professional.
He also believes he should have been Youngblood’s presenter when the former Gator was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2001.
“He wouldn’t have gotten in without having me to sack,” quipped Manning, who was sacked 337 times as a Saint.
Manning and the Saints struggled through nine losing seasons with Manning at the helm. New Orleans only managed to get to .500 once during his time with the team.
Despite the losing record Manning was well respected around the league. In 1972 he led the NFL in pass attempts and completions while leading the National Football Conference in passing yards, though the Saints finished with just a 2-11-1 record. He was a Pro Bowl selections in 1978 and again the following season.
Manning played 13 seasons in the NFL and retired following stints with Houston (1982-83) and Minnesota (1983-84). He posted a record of 35-101-3 as a starter in the league and completed 2,011 passes for 23,911 yards and 125 touchdowns during his career.
Despite being one of just a few players to spend at least 10 years in the league and never taking part in a playoff game Manning remains one of the most respected players in league history. The Saints have not reissued his No. 8 jersey since he left the team midway through the season when he was traded to the Oilers.
Manning was selected as one of the 13 inaugural members of the College Football Playoff Selection Committee in 2013. He stepped down from that post one year later because of health reasons.
Manning’s continued involvement in the college game is in large part due to the respect he continues to garner long after his playing career.
“Archie Manning is a man of great character,” said NFF CEO Steve Hatchell. “He remains one of the greatest players in college football history and his passion for the game and the players who have followed in the path he helped create is one of the many things that has allowed college football to continue to grow in popularity.”
The college football legend was drafted four times as a shortstop to play professional baseball. He was selected by Atlanta in 1967 and was later chosen twice by the Chicago White Sox. He was also chosen by Kansas City in 1971.
Manning and his wife have three children, Cooper, Peyton and Eli.
Cooper was forced to give up football in 1974 after being diagnosed with spinal stenosis while Peyton and Eli went on to brilliant collegiate careers of their own.
Peyton was the No.1 pick in the 1998 Draft by Indianapolis after a standout career at Tennessee. He led the Colts to a win against Chicago in Super Bowl XLI and was the game’s MVP. He added a second Super Bowl title by leading Denver to a win over Carolina in Super Bowl L.
Peyton was recently chosen to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility. He was selected to the College Football Hall of Fame in 2017.
Eli, meanwhile, followed in his father’s footsteps and played college football at Ole Miss and was drafted No. 1 overall by San Diego in in 2004 before being traded to the New York Giants on draft day. He led the Giants to a pair of Super Bowl victories, both over New England, and was the MVP in both of those games.
He retired following the 2019 season and will not be eligible for the Pro Football Hall of Fame until 2025 when his name will be on the ballot for the first time.
2021 COLLEGE FOOTBALL HALL OF FAME CLASS
- Harris Barton – OT, North Carolina (1983-86)
- David Fulcher – DB, Arizona State (1983-85)
- Dan Morgan – LB, Miami [FL] (1997-2000)
- Carson Palmer – QB, Southern California (1998-2002)
- Tony Romo – QB, Eastern Illinois (1999-2002)
- Kenneth Sims – DT, Texas (1978-81)
- C.J. Spiller – RB/KR, Clemson (2006-09)
- Darren Sproles – RB, Kansas State (2001-04)
- Aaron Taylor – OT, Notre Dame (1990-93)
- Andre Tippett – DE, Iowa (1979-81)
- Al Wilson – LB, Tennessee (1995-98)
- Rudy Hubbard – 83-48-3 (63.1%); Florida A&M (1974-85)
- Bob Stoops – 190-48-0 (79.8%); Oklahoma (1999-2016)
A native of Bismarck, N.D., Ray is a graduate of North Dakota State University where he began studying athletic training and served as a student trainer for several Bison teams including swimming, wrestling and baseball and was a trainer at the 1979 NCAA national track and field championship meet at the University of Illinois. Ray later worked in the sports information office at NDSU. Following his graduation from NDSU he spent five years in the sports information office at Missouri Western State University and one year in the sports information at Georgia Tech. He has nearly 40 years of writing experience as a sports editor at several newspapers and has received numerous awards for his writing over the years. A noted sports historian, Ray is currently an assistant editor at Amateur Wrestling News.