Super Bowl memories — Peyton Manning, 9 years ago…

Rick Cleveland
Rick Cleveland

If you’ve watched ESPN’s Book of Manning, you know the theme. Back in 2007, at the Super Bowl in Miami, I wrote about it: How Archie Manning’s daddy’s death helped influence the father Archie would become. That column follows…

MIAMI- Talk to one of the Manning boys – Cooper, Peyton or Eli – and they’ll tell you this:

A conversation with their father never ends until Archie Manning says, “Love you, Coop.” Or, “Love you, Peyt.” Or, “Love you, Eli.”

Doesn’t matter how serious the conversation, or who else is around. Archie Manning always tells his sons what they already know and what they’ve heard tens of thousands of times.

He’ll do it again Sunday when he talks to Peyton by phone, probably when his middle son is riding the bus to Dolphin Stadium here to play the biggest football game of his life.

Archie, wife Olivia and sons Cooper and Eli will watch Peyton and the Indianapolis Colts play the Chicago Bears in Super Bowl XLI. They’ll watch from a private box.

Archie and Peyton Manning at Tennessee.

“I don’t take any of this for granted,”Archie Manning said Thursday. “There are 32 starting pro football quarterbacks in the world and two of them are ours. There are two starting quarterbacks in the sport’s biggest game and one of them is ours. I’m proud of all my boys. They’ve brought us so much joy.”

Archie Manning prefers to stay out of the spotlight at times like this. If CBS cameras find the Manning box Sunday, he’ll probably leave and watch the game from another perch. Whether the Colts win or lose, he’ll be there afterward to share an embrace with his middle son, Peyton, who is 30, 10 years older than Archie Manning was when he lost his father.

‘We lost him’

Archie Manning was 20 the day his life changed. It was the summer of 1969 between his sophomore and junior football seasons at Ole Miss. He was home in Drew when he came in from a wedding and found Buddy Manning, his father, dead. Buddy Manning, 59, had shot himself.

“My daddy was going through a weak time in his life and we lost him,”Archie Manning said Thursday on one of the rare occasions he has ever spoken publicly of his father’s suicide.

Buddy Manning had suffered a stroke, was in failing health and apparently didn’t want to be a burden on his family.

Archie Manning grew up that day. He had to.

Thirty-seven years later, there seems little doubt what happened that day helped to shape the father Archie Manning would become.

“The things I regret most are all the things I could have included him in,”Archie Manning said. “There was so much during those next two years at Ole Miss and then pro football – the places I got to go, the people I met and the things I got to do.

“He would have loved it. Man, he would have loved it.”

‘The love part’

For his boys, Archie Manning has always been there. After Archie Manning was traded from the New Orleans Saints to the Houston Oilers, he would fly back to New Orleans several times a week, after practice, to have dinner with Olivia and Cooper and Peyton. (Eli hadn’t come along yet.)

He was by Peyton’s side when Peyton announced he would attend Tennessee, not Ole Miss, causing a furor throughout much of the state. He was by Eli’s side when he chose Ole Miss, not the others. He was with them both on draft day. He was with Cooper for every operation and all the rehab for the spinal condition that ended his football career.

In the book Manning, which Peyton and Archie did with author John Underwood, Peyton Manning talked about a visit with his father to Drew and Buddy Manning’s grave after Peyton’s rookie season in Indianapolis. It was the first time Peyton and Archie had ever talked about Buddy Manning’s death.

Said Peyton:”He got a little emotional telling me about it … He said what a shock it had been … Then he said he knew his dad loved him but had never told him so, and I was reminded how often he tells us – Cooper and Eli and me. How he never ends a telephone call without letting us know. How he’s always been there for us. I think I really began to feel it when I was 17 or 18 and Cooper was 19, 20, which was the corresponding time in his life that he lost his dad”.

Peyton continued, “I’d feel it when he put his arm around me. I’d feel it in the empathy and the caring that he always showed for what was going on in our lives. So I understand now, and it’s not complicated at all. What he missed he never wanted us to miss. But what explains him best is still the part we had already grown so accustomed to. The love part.”

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2 thoughts on “Super Bowl memories — Peyton Manning, 9 years ago…”

  1. Sad to hear that he felt he was a family Burdon due to a stroke. Manning was only 59 when hr took his own life. That is so sad, and my respect level for Archie gas grown. Peyton, Eli, and Cooper you have all shown class.

  2. God bless you Archie. You’re a wonderful man and you know your father is proud of you for the man and father you’ve become.

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