Archie Manning, College Football Hall of Famer, former pro quarterback and father of two of the most accomplished quarterbacks in the NFL today, says that football gave him a jump start on understanding leadership and that we all learn from adversity.
Tuesday evening at Hanner Fieldhouse, Manning delivered the latest installment in Georgia Southern University’s Leadership Lecture Series.
Speaking at Hanner, Manning told the large crowd made up mostly of students that to be a leader, always think like a winner, set achievable and challenging goals and always do the right thing.
"The question isn't if you will face adversity; it's what will you do when you're faced with adversity," Manning said. "Will you overcome it or let it overcome you?"
Manning shared stories about his famous sons Peyton and Eli, and about his oldest son Cooper, whose athletic career was cut short by a spinal condition his freshman year in college.
"I received a letter from a youngster ... who concluded that I was a better quarterback than Peyton and Eli," he said "I was feeling pretty good and then I saw the PS - 'would you mind asking Peyton and Eli to send me an autograph picture."
An earlier, 15-minute press conference touched on progress on player safety, the NFL’s response to domestic violence, and a football dad’s sensitivity to criticism of his famous sons.
“Well, I think football maybe enabled me to get a little jump start,” he said when asked if he had learned more about leadership as a football player or since. “I guess my first real experience with leadership was as a young quarterback.”
Manning was starting quarterback for “Ole Miss,” the University of Mississippi at Oxford, for three years. In the NFL, he played for the New Orleans Saints from 1971 to 1982, then one season each for the Houston Oilers and Minnesota Vikings.
Before the press conference, Manning had met with Georgia Southern Eagles football players.
He said he had talked to them about how football is “a yo-yo game” with “just so many highs and lows.”
“Life too,” he said.
“I had some great questions asked and we talked about adversity,” he said of his session with the players. “And that’s a big part of football. … A big part of football is between the ears, and a big part of life is how you deal with it between the ears.”
In his NFL days, Manning earned recognition as an athlete and quarterback, despite the Saints having nine losing seasons out of the 10 he was there.
Asked whether he is concerned about leadership within the NFL on issues such as domestic violence, Manning expressed friendship and support for NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell.
“No, I’m not concerned about the leadership. It’s been a tough year in the NFL,” Manning said. “Certainly some of the issues, they’re important, some things unfortunate, but I think this league has great leadership. I’m a close friend of Roger Goodell. I think he has a tough, tough job.
“I think he has stood up in some tough situations here, and I think when issues come up in our society or in football or wherever it’s kind of up to everybody to address them.”
Player concussions remain a major concern, Manning acknowledged, but he said progress is being made.
“Not just the NFL, but college football, prep football, football at all levels, I think is trying to address safety,” Manning said. “If people will really pay attention, in a short period of time we’re getting some good results, and football has always been a tough game, a physical game, but there are already less injuries, less head injuries.”
‘A safer game’
“We already have a safer game,” he said. “But just because some numbers are good after three or four years now, we can’t stop, we’ve got to continue, every year at every level, to try to make this game as safe as possible.”
In addition to his own accomplishments, Manning is perhaps America’s best known football dad.
His youngest son, Eli, the New York Giants’ starting quarterback, is a two-time Super Bowl Most Valuable Player after the Giants’ victories in Super Bowl XLII and Super Bowl XLVI.
His middle son, Peyton, current Denver Broncos quarterback, previously led the Indianapolis Colts to eight division championships, two conference championships, and one Super Bowl win and is the all-time touchdown record holder.
His oldest son, Cooper, was an all-state high school wide receiver. He planned to play at the University of Mississippi before a spinal condition ended his football career.
Criticism of his sons “probably hurts a little more” to him as their father than when the same kind of talk was directed against him personally as a player, Archie Manning said.
“Yeah, I think it’s a little tougher,” he said, adding that he sees this in his wife’s reactions. He and Olivia Manning have been married 44 years.
“I think she’s a little bit more sensitive to it than maybe she was … I tell her she’s more sensitive than she was for me,” he said. “But it’s part of it. It’s an aspect of the game, and there’s just so much media, so much more media than in my day.”
Manning noted his work with the National Football Foundation and College Hall of Fame on programs to develop and recognize scholar athletes.
“These kids we honor are really doing it in both phases,” he said. “It’s disciplining their time, it’s making a commitment, and it’s being an outstanding student and an outstanding athlete, and those are our leaders. We’re talking about leadership. Those are our future leaders.”
Al Hackle may be reached at (912) 489-9458.