Archie's Army - the ladies version

You have to believe when he was growing up in the small Delta town of Drew that Archie Manning would never have wanted the kind of spotlight he's been in the past 40 years. He'll basically tell you that, too.

Neither did his wife, Olivia, the former Ole Miss homecoming queen from another Mississippi small town, Philadelphia.

Archie has caught up with his wife a bit, along with son Eli. All three have now spoken at the annual Ladies Football Forum held each summer at Ole Miss.

More than 500 ladies, basically all of them Rebel fans, didn't give Archie quite the reception Eli got when he spoke last year. But it was close.

When Eli, who had yet to win the Super Bowl and the MVP award, entered the massive indoor football practice facility last summer, the women of Ole Miss gave him a rockstar reception, some standing in their chairs, cameras flashing, cell phones snapping shot after shot of the youngest of the three Manning boys.

So maybe the only difference this year was that they didn't stand in the chairs.

"I guess y'all got a little bit out of him," Archie said of his Eli's speech last summer. "He's always been the quietest of our boys."

But he's arguably now the most famous, even in these parts.

"I was walking across the campus this morning," Archie said. "I heard three little boys talking and one of them said ‘That's Eli's dad' as I walked by."

That brought much laughter from the ladies assembled. Time does have a way of changing things.

But for many, especially the ones who remember his legendary years as the Ole Miss quarterback, Archie will always be No. 1. He admitted he was concerned about the speed limit on the Ole Miss campus, which is 18 miles per hour – the same number he wore on his Rebel uniform from 1968-70.

"I worry all the time about getting stopped for speeding up here," said the longtime resident of New Orleans. "Somebody even said after the Super Bowl they were going to change it."

To 10 miles per hour, the number on Eli's Ole Miss and New York Giants jersey. Not true, of course, but it brought more laughter from the ladies.

Appropriately, Olivia was the first Manning to speak at one of these events a few years back. She wasn't excited to be front and center, according to her husband.

"It was the first public speech Olivia ever made," he said, "and it was the last one she ever made."

The ladies in attendance ranged from four-years-old to 82. The questions they asked were just as wide-ranging.

"I'm taking Mississippi history this summer, and next week we are studying you. What should we talk about in class?" one asked.

That one stumped Archie. He wasn't sure.

"I grew up an Arkansas fan, but I married an Ole Miss man. You broke our hearts in Arkansas," said another, now admittedly a Rebel fan.

Archie and the Rebels beat the Arkansas Razorbacks in the 1970 Sugar Bowl in New Orleans.

Then there was one from a lady from Ft. Worth, Texas, who has lived in Mississippi the past 13 years. It's a question on the minds of many.

"Are your grandkids going to be quarterbacks?" she asked.

Archie has three grandchildren already. All of them are oldest son Cooper's kids. Two are boys. The oldest they call Arch.

"They're pretty big," Archie said. "Who knows? They may be linemen."

Another lady stood during the Q & A.

"I want to thank you for your sons and the work they do for the children in this country," she said.

"Of all the things they've accomplished, we're the most proud of that," Archie said, mentioning that Peyton's name will be on a children's hospital in Indianapolis, while Eli's name will be on one in Jackson.

Archie said a lady in California once asked him which of his children he was the most proud of. He said she really didn't mean to ask him to play favorites; it just came out that way.

"I told her Cooper," said Archie, smiling. "He's the one with the grandkids."

The spotlight continues.

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