Saints Aints'

Friday, April 07, 2006

Saint Legend Remembered

Former Saint QB Archie Manning passed for over 21,000 yards in his career
Saints Hall of FameManning. Say that one name to any true Saints fan, and they will know exactly who you are talking about without even having to ask.
Then, the stories and descriptions come from the memory bank. Archie Manning -- Ole Miss star quarterback, first-round pick of the Saints, numerous highlights, impossible throws and last-second comebacks are all part of the lore of the club's most-famous player.
It's been 32 years since his Saints and NFL debut in 1971, but fans remember him like he has always been part of the team. In a way, he has.
After finishing his career in Houston and Minnesota before retiring after the 1985 season, Manning stayed in New Orleans and kept the roots he put down in his rookie season with his wife, Olivia and later, his sons Peyton, Cooper and Eli. He worked on the club's radio broadcast team for 12 years and completed his 18th season of providing commentary on Saints preseason telecasts, much of the time with WWL-TV sports director Jim Henderson.
Henderson summed up why Manning is so revered in the New Orleans community. "He came to New Orleans and stayed when a lot of athletes came and went," he said. "He was one of the most-ballyhooed choices that the club has ever made in the NFL Draft. He already had a substantial following from his days at Ole Miss. He got out in public in a small city like New Orleans and fans got to know him, which went a long way. He is a classy individual who is truly a civic treasure."
His fall weekends are still full of football as he traveled to see Eli play quarterback for his old college team at Ole Miss on Saturdays. Most Sundays, Archie follows Peyton and the Indianapolis Colts.
"For a while, I would see three games during the weekend. I would see Eli play on Friday, Peyton on Saturday and announce a Saints game on Sunday," Manning said.
In between, Archie gives of his time to several causes and is a much sought-after speaker on translating the values that made him a success on the field to helping others reach goals in business and life. His downtown New Orleans office, where he works on marketing and public relations for companies mainly in the Southeast, is in the shadow of the Superdome and his family's successful Manning Passing Academy is part of the New Orleans area sports calendar each summer. He also provides a commentary to over 50 stations on the Mississippi Network.
He had a memorable start in the 1971 season opener against the L.A. Rams. The Saints trailed, 20-17 late in the game at Tulane Stadium. Needing to go 70 yards to the end zone, Manning used the two-minute offense to take the Saints to the Rams' one-yard line with three seconds left. After a timeout, Manning rolled out and found a seam in the Rams defense which got him into the end zone for the touchdown and a 24-20 victory.
Bob Roesler wrote in the next day's Times-Picayune, "Yes, America, there is a Superman. His name is Archie Manning and he wears a Saints uniform." Archie's transformation from college legend to pro hero had begun.
He was named the NFC Most Valuable Player by UPI and The Sporting News after a 1978 season in which he completed 291-of-471 passes (61.8 percent) for 3,416 yards and 17 TDs. He followed that up with 15 TD passes in 1979 and 23 in 1980.
By 1982, Manning was no longer the Saints starting quarterback and early in the season, he was dealt to Houston by Coach Bum Phillips.
"I remember how sad everyone in town was when he was traded," Henderson recalled. "When his family saw him off to Houston at the airport, you could certainly tell how much he hated to leave here."
He finished his Saints career with 1849-for-3335 passing (55.4 percent) for 21,734 yards and 115 TDs. What makes those numbers even more remarkable was that Manning spent a large part of his Saints career running with the ball as his 2,058 rushing yards, 18 rushing TDs and 340 sacks would attest to.
"We didn't see the brightest side of it football-wise and I spent a lot of time on the run," he said about his pro days. "Being a part of the Saints as a quarterback gave me one of the unique positions in town. We settled here and I got involved with organizations and charities."
What he also remembers are the guys he played with who became life-long friends. "My first best friend was Danny Abramowicz," he said. "He is a special guy who was a classic overachiever as a player. Bobby Scott and I roomed together. We went through a lot of meetings. Tommy Myers was a heck of a player. Joe Federspiel was a tough guy. Derland Moore and I are still very good friends."
One of the brightest parts of Archie's life these days is his granddaughter, May, born in December 2002 -- the child of Cooper, who is an institutional broker in New Orleans, and his wife, Ellen.
"During the holidays, football is still being played, so we don't get together as an entire family much," Manning said. "We were together twice in the last year with May's christening in April and the Passing Academy for four days in July."
He summed up his long career this way. "I worked hard every day on getting better," he said. "In my day, the offseason was not as required as it is today so I worked out hard during that time. I had some injuries, but I didn't miss a lot. I prepared, worked hard and got ready to play."


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