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Mannings are first family' of football

By By Stan Torgerson / sports columnist
April 6, 2004
There was a time when The Sporting News was published in tabloid newspaper form and called itself "The Bible of Baseball." That's basically what it was a clearinghouse for everything you wanted to know about baseball and more. It had statistics, standings, recaps of the previous week's games and features on players.
That was all right, as long as baseball was truly our national pastime. When football become the country's No. 1 sport, that in-depth interest began to fade and so did The Sporting News.
The publisher made a gutsy decision. He abandoned the old newsprint format, converted the publication to a slick sports magazine and broadened its editorial base to include football, basketball, hockey and about every other sport, pro or amateur. In effect, he was challenging the long-time king of the hill, Sports Illustrated. He's done a good job of it. I subscribe to both, but find the News easier and more interesting to read.
This is all leading up to an article that ran in its March 22 edition about the Manning family. It is probably the best I've ever read about what the magazine calls "The First Family."
The sub-head reads, "Archie, Peyton and Eli are incredibly famous, immensely skilled and intensely driven. But as Eli prepares to be like his brother a first overall draft pick, what stands out the most about the Mannings is how refreshingly grounded they are."
There are no ifs, ands or buts to this story. Paul Attner, the writer, is an obvious fan.
Attner will get no argument from me.
I've been blessed in my announcing career. I was the broadcaster for a Braves minor league farm team, the Eau Claire (Wis.) Bears when the team bought Henry Aaron from the Indianapolis Clowns and assigned him to us. Watching him play in his rookie season, knowing I broadcast the first home run Hank Aaron ever hit in pro baseball, and seeing the letter he sent to me after he broke Babe Ruth's record are truly priceless memories.
Another is also baseball oriented. When Luis Aparicio, now a Hall of Fame member after his years as a shortstop for the Chicago White Sox, spent a minor league year in Memphis, I was calling the games. There was no doubt about his talent either. Another great player to remember.
But most precious were the years between 1967 and 1970 when Archie was playing quarterback at Ole Miss. My son Larry was on the team, and I was doing the broadcasting.
I rarely hear this mentioned, but in Archie's freshman year (players weren't eligible for varsity ball at that time), coach Wobble Davidson started him at safety for two of the four games the Rebel freshmen played that season. It wasn't until the spring practice of 1968 that coach Vaught decided the Manning kid's best position was at quarterback and put him in there to stay. He could have been an All-American at either position. It was Vaught and a brilliant spring practice that made Archie Manning what he is today.
The magazine story about the Mannings goes on for an incredible four pages, includes five pictures and other quotes from former Ole Miss players.
revitalizes an entire university. Pressure. What's that?"
I saw Archie before the South Carolina game last fall. We were both having dinner at City Grocery in Oxford, and he and Olivia stopped by our table on the way out to chat. My freshman granddaughter brought a date, and I introduced him to Archie. When the Mannings left, the young man turned to me with eyes like saucers and said, "You know Archie Manning?"