THE MANNING COLLEGE FOOTBALL DYNASTY: PART 1 - ARCHIE
By George Somerville
The recruitment of the much sought after quarterback, Arch Manning has come to an end. Our SEC expert George Somerville looks at the Manning family and the legacy the name has across college football – and what the latest Manning brings to the Texas Longhorns and the SEC in 2025.
If you have been following college recruiting – particularly in the SEC – the name Arch Manning has been on the lips of every coach, scout, pundit and fan for two years. Why? Well, Arch is the #1 recruit in this class. But he also comes with a legacy. He is a Manning; son of Cooper, grandson of Archie and nephew of Peyton and Eli.
Everyone knows Peyton and Eli from the NFL, where they hold four Super Bowl rings between them. If you know enough about the history of the game, you may even know grandfather Archie from his time with the New Orleans Saints.
However, before NFL glory the Mannings had a rich history in college football. In fact, the Mannings hold legendary status in college football and are the defacto Royal family of SEC football.
So before we get to Arch Manning and what Texas fans can look forward to, let’s have a look back to the success that previous Manning generations had in the SEC.
In The Beginning, There Was Archie.
If you visit the University of Mississippi campus in Oxford, you are greeted by an unusual restriction. On campus, the official speed limit is 18 miles per hour. In some parts of campus the speed limit is 10 miles per hour – but we will dwell on that later.
Why 18 miles per hour? It’s no coincidence that this was the jersey number of Archie Manning. A jersey which was retired by Ole Miss football in 1969. Which tells you all you need to know about the lasting effect that Archie Manning has had on Oxford and the Ole Miss Rebels.
Born in Drew, Mississippi, Archie Manning travelled only 81 miles to go to school at the University of Mississippi.
A Farmer's Son
The son of a cotton farmer, Archie Manning excelled at multiple sports in high school. He was drafted by the Atlanta Braves to play baseball in his senior year. However a scholarship offer from the University of Mississippi was one offer the young Ole Miss football fan could not turn down.
Under NCAA rules back then freshmen were unable to play football, meaning Manning had to sit out his first year in Oxford. However this gave him the opportunity to learn Coach Johnny Vaught’s playbook.
The Young Manning Makes An Impression
A year on the bench paid dividends for Manning and Ole Miss. The Rebels coaching staff held Archie Manning in high regard. So much so that in his second year on campus, Archie Manning became the first sophomore in Ole Miss history to start at quarterback.
In that first year under center, Manning led the Rebels to a 7-3-1 record and ended the season with a Liberty Bowl victory over Virginia Tech. The season would include highs of wins over Alabama and LSU, with Manning throwing for 8 touchdowns and 510 yards over the course of the season. However with 17 interceptions throughout the year, there was clearly work to be done.
Expectations were rising in Oxford, Mississippi.
Summer Of Pain
Archie Manning headed back to his hometown Drew to spend the summer with his family working on the Manning’s farm.
However, tragedy was to strike when Archie returned home to find his father dead after committing suicide. It seemed at that point that Archie’s college football career had come to a sudden halt. In the immediate aftermath, Manning declared that he would leave Ole Miss to return home to take up the responsibilities of the family farm.
However, his mother was adamant that Archie should return to school to continue his football career and complete his degree.
In The National Spotlight
This decision would change the course of football history, with Archie Manning transforming the way that Ole Miss played football. A move that would ultimately lead Manning to become a national figure.
With college football and the SEC especially being a run dominant game, the young Manning’s ability to throw or run with the ball gave the Ole Miss offense options. In fact, Archie Manning was an early example of a quarterback who could play Run Pass Option, or RPO as we now happily abbreviate it.
Archie Manning’s junior year, 1969 would be his best in a Rebels jersey. This culminated in a nationally televised game against Alabama, which the Rebels narrowly lost 33-32 to the Crimson Tide. However it was the nature of both teams heavy passing game intertwined with dual threat quarterbacks that captured the imagination of a nation. In this game, Manning set a single game record of 540 yards total offense, a record which remained for 43 years.
This game was also groundbreaking as it would be the first time in college football that a quarterback passed for over 300 yards and rushed for over 100 yards.
The Ole Miss quarterback was the talk of college football. Archie Manning was a star and Mississippi loved him.
In 1969 Archie Manning passed for 1,762 yards, nine touchdowns, and nine interceptions. The following year, his senior year, Manning passed for 1,481 yards and 14 touchdowns, leading Ole Miss to the Gator Bowl.
In his final season Manning racked up numerous accolades, including 3rd place in Heisman voting. This third place was almost unthinkable given how unfashionable Ole Miss was back in 1970. However, what made his final season all the more remarkable is that he broke his arm playing against Houston. While Manning would eventually succumb to the pain he would initially return to the field to throw with his non dominant arm.
Manning’s absence from the team was short lived as he returned quickly and continued to play with a protective sleeve over his broken arm.
The Man, The Legend
This all served to cement Manning’s status as a legend by the time he moved to the New Orleans Saints to play in the NFL. Archie Manning ws selected with the #2 overall pick in the draft and ultimately had a long career in the NFL. He played in the NFL for 13 seasons, but during a time when the Saints were a far cry from the franchise they are today. So these were 13 difficult years to play for the Saints. As in Mississippi Archie Manning endeared himself to the New Orleans people with a never say die attitude and consistently dogged and gritty performances for the Saints.
College football – and especially the SEC – remembers him as a ground breaking quarterback – a player who changed the face of quarterback play.
What Ole Miss fans didn’t know then was that this was only the beginning of the Manning family’s impact on the SEC and college football.
Next up was Peyton…….
College football writer
A GLASWEGIAN LIVING IN LONDON, GEORGE IS A COLLEGE FOOTBALL FAN WHO FOLLOWS THE ALABAMA CRIMSON TIDE. HE PROVIDES CFB CONTENT FOR THE TOUCHDOWN AND IS ONE THIRD OF THE COLLEGE CHAPS PODCAST.