Former Ole Miss quarterback Archie Manning was a staple in the Rebels’ offense in the 1970 Sugar Bowl win, which saw Ole Miss defeat Arkansas 27-22. Manning, of course, went on to play for the New Orleans Saints and has been a New Orleans resident ever since, so there’s no hiding the excitement in his voice when he talks about his Rebels going to the Sugar Bowl.
“The Manning family is really excited as is the entire Sugar Bowl organization and the New Orleans committee,” Manning said. “We’re extremely happy and looking forward to a fun time.
“I sensed it the way things were taking shape. We went up to Oxford to the LSU game, and I started looking at this thing. Alabama was in great shape if they won out to be in the Playoff and be a top four team. (I knew) the second highest-rated team was probably going to come to the Sugar Bowl. … I started sensing it right there, and it came to fruition.”
Manning, who has served on the Sugar Bowl committee for the past 25 years, was named Most Valuable Player in the 1970 Sugar Bowl, and he’s played a small role in the Rebels getting back to the South’s most prestigious bowl game once again.
The Ole Miss legend teamed up with FedEx’s Mike Glenn in 2011 to spearhead the search for the Rebels new football coach. Obviously, Hugh Freeze was the guy they pegged to turn Ole Miss around, and with Freeze leading the Rebels to their second straight “New Year’s Six” bowl game, it’s safe to say Manning and Glenn accomplished their goal.
“I would say Ole Miss people, who have always been really good to me, might have forgotten and said I was a decent player but a better coach picker,” Manning said jokingly. “I think that’s the way a lot of people look at me now. … We get a few pats on the back, but all the credit goes to coach Freeze and the coaching staff.”
Manning said he didn’t have a timetable for Freeze to get Ole Miss going in the right direction, but he’s thrilled with the quick turnaround that’s taken place in Oxford over the past four years.
“I couldn’t be happier with everything he’s been able to accomplish up there,” Manning said. “... Couldn’t be prouder of him. He’s a heck of a football coach, and we’re glad to have him at Ole Miss.”
Time will tell if Ole Miss can continue its upward trajectory and make trips to Sugar Bowl a regularity once again for a once traditional football power.
For now, Manning will sit back and enjoy the present. He expects a huge flock of Ole Miss fans to flood the streets of New Orleans in the coming weeks, and he’ll be right in the middle of it. He’s been asked for tickets and has done everything he can to help out all of his friends who don red and blue.
But for Manning, this year is different. Ole Miss is back in the bowl game that he remembers watching as a kid, and he’s as excited as anyone to see Ole Miss in the national spotlight once again.