I wouldn’t call what we did an interview because it was more of a conversation, but whatever it was I can say that talking with Archie was a real pleasure. He was a great player and is a great person. The Mannings, including his sons Peyton and Eli who are Super Bowl winning quarterbacks, probably have about as much influence in the football world as any family out there across the country.
I don’t know how many times I watched the TV documentary about the Mannings, which is something I never get tired of seeing because it is so good, so healthy, so wholesome and right. If you had to pick a family to represent football, and college football in particular, you couldn’t find a better choice because of all the things Archie, Peyton and Eli stand for on and off the field.
Archie, who is in the College Football Hall of Fame as one of the greatest quarterbacks in SEC history, was selected to the committee that chose the teams for the first major college four-team playoff won by Ohio State in January. He didn’t get the chance to participate in the actual selection of the final four teams because he was sidelined while recovering from surgery on his neck and back as well as recovering from knee replacement surgery.
We had a great visit and he talked about the 1969 game he played in for Ole Miss vs. Alabama. That night he set an SEC record for total yards by a quarterback with a great performance as a passer and runner. That mark stood for more than four decades until Johnny Manziel broke it while playing for Texas A&M.
Archie had another great game against Auburn in the Gator Bowl when he had a duel with quarterback Pat Sullivan in Jacksonville in what was a very memorable victory for the Tigers.
He has been good friends over the years with Pat, who is another great guy. Archie is just a great guy and I can say I have never heard a derogatory statement about him or the Manning children. That says a lot about what type of man Archie is, and the same thing is true of his wife Olivia, who obviously did a wonderful job raising her boys. She deserves a lot of credit for how they turned out because with Archie having such a long career in the NFL with all of the playing, practicing and traveling involved she probably spent a lot of time with the boys when they were young.
When we got through with the interview I just kind of sat back and took a deep breath because it was such a refreshing conversation. I got it started and after that Archie did most of the talking.
One of the most interesting things the Mannings do is run a summer camp for quarterbacks, which attracts young players from across the country who want to learn more about playing that position. There is no telling how many players they have helped over the years, but it is a large number.
On the subject of the camp, Archie talked about the change that has taken place in the kids who have come through the Manning Passing Academy over the last 10 years. He said there has been phenomenal growth in the young kids coming out of high school now and that you can see it has carried over to the college playing field with so many effective quarterbacks coming out now and many of them have been through the Manning camp.
He wasn’t shy about saying that if you look over the history of football, the teams that reach finals have all got outstanding quarterbacks. Even with Ohio State going through the problems and musical chairs with the quarterbacks up there because of the injuries and so forth, the guy who came in and played great in the national championship game and beat Alabama, too, was a key to the Buckeyes taking home the championship trophy.
The other team in that game, Oregon, got there because of the performance quarterback Marcus Mariotta. If you go back to the previous season the Florida State team that won the BCS Championship Game by edging Auburn featured Jameis Winston, another talented quarterback.
Archie’s point is that you have got to have a trigger man running the offense and the Mannings have had a tremendous influence on the play of this generation of quarterbacks, players we will be watching perform on Saturdays again this year.
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