Former NFL quarterback Archie Manning spoke about family, parenting and football at the inaugural Commercial Appeal Sports Awards, presented by Gossett Motor Cars, at the Orpheum Theater on Friday.
Manning, who played 13 years in the NFL and is better known today as the father of Super Bowl champion quarterbacks Peyton and Eli Manning, covered a lot of topics in a 30-minute discussion with Commercial Appeal columnist Geoff Calkins.
The former New Orleans Saint ended the casual question-and-answer conversation with a key message to the hundreds of high school athletes in attendance: “God gave you some ability, but what really gets you going and makes you better is hard work; and there’s always going to be somebody better, so you got to out-work them.
“Another thing, especially in team sports, and I’ve heard Peyton say this a couple of times … I think you got to work at being a great teammate. To be unselfish is really important to be a great teammate.”
Prior to his final message, he shared his thoughts on:
► The time he almost quit football after his father died when he was at Ole Miss. “I felt like I became a man right then. I felt like the responsibility came. I had a mother, I had a sister. I told my mother, ‘Look,I am not through with school, but I can give up football and get a job.’ But of course she would not hear of that.”
Manning said the Ole Miss coaches, specifically head coach John Vaught, filled the void of his father.
► The secret to successfully raising his sons Peyton, Eli and Cooper: “When people compliment me on my children, I say, ‘You know, that’s really easy. It’s their mother. Their mother (Olivia) is responsible for that. She’s a great wife, but she’s been a great mother.'”
“We didn’t try to raise quarterbacks, we didn’t try to raise NFL players. We just tried to raise kids. I was playing football in an NFL city (New Orelans). We tried really hard not to be a celebrity. We tried to be normal. We wanted to be at school functions. I just wanted to be another dad.”
► On not pushing your kids in sports: “I always had a talk to myself when I went to a (kid’s) sporting event, and we went to a lot of them with three boys who played every sport. I’d get out of the car and I’d say (to myself), ‘OK, stupid, go sit on the top row and keep your mouth shut. And that’s what I’d try to do. The key is to support (your kids), but we are not the coach and it’s not our duty to scream at the coach who is doing the best he can.”
► On when it will be time for Eli to retire from the New York Giants: “Eli has been very fortunate, he’s never missed a play; he’s healthy, but he’s 36 years old. And when you get north of 35, it’s harder to stay healthy. You got big, strong people hitting you out there. Another key for a quarterback is to win. When your team doesn’t do very well and you are 36-year-old quarterback, the first person that they’ll get on is the head coach. The second is the quarterback. Hopefully, he can stay healthy and (the Giants) can be successful.”
► On how Peyton managed his own college recruiting when he was in high school. “He got recruited by more than 100 schools. He was mature, his grades were good and he really liked recruiting. He liked to talk to coaches. He organized it and handled it. He chose Tennessee and made a great choice … and everybody at Ole Miss got mad at me.”