Residents in Cleveland were in for a treat Wednesday as Drew native and football great Archie Manning was the speaker during Delta Conversation hosted by the Community Foundation of Northwest Mississippi at the Grammy Museum.
Manning was a fantastic all-around athlete at Drew High School where he played football, baseball, basketball and track. He played college football at Ole Miss from 1968-1970 where he was the team’s quarterback. In his career, he threw for 4,753 yards, rushed for 823 yards and accounted for 56 touchdowns. He earned All-American and All-SEC honors in 1969 and 70. After Ole Miss, Manning was the No. 2 overall selection in the NFL draft in 1971 by the New Orleans Saints. Manning ended up having a successful NFL 14-year career with New Orleans, Houston and Minnesota as he threw for 23,911 yards with 125 touchdowns and was named to two Pro Bowls. Manning’s sons, Peyton and Eli, are two of the most successful quarterbacks in NFL history.
During the event Wednesday, Manning was excited to be back in the Delta area.
“I have a lot of Delta memories that I cherish in my time growing up in Drew, Mississippi and Sunflower County,” Manning said. “It’s great to be home.”
Manning talked about growing up in the Delta and how much time he spent in Cleveland.
He cherished his time playing youth baseball.
“I was 13-years-old, and I got picked to be on the Delta All-Star team,” Manning said. “I was the only 13-year-old. We practiced every day in Cleveland getting ready to go to the state tournament in Columbus. All the 15-year-olds would drive to practice and my mother would have to drive me over. My coach was Don Skelton, and one day Don Skelton brought out Coach Dave “Boo” Ferriss to talk to our Babe Ruth team. I’ll never forget. It was the beginning of a long great friendship I had with Coach Ferriss.”
He continued to talk about his time growing up and how he and his dad went to football games every Saturday watching Delta State University or Mississippi Delta Community College in Moorhead. He also talked about his summers working for a brick layer, and they did a lot of work in Cleveland. He had fond memories about all the Delta towns he spent time in.
Manning reminisced about the 50th anniversary of the New Orleans Saints, and he told a story about when he spoke at the event that got some laughs from the crowd at the Grammy Museum.
“They had a big weekend for a home game, and it was a big deal,” Manning said about the anniversary weekend. “They selected over the years 50 players to bring back. I was honored to be one of the 50 players. We had a big reception that night. There were other players through the years that were there also.
“I got invited to come up and say a few comments. I was getting ready to have another knee placement. I wasn’t feeling good at all. One of my old offensive linemen, and I can assure you he wasn’t one of the 50. Anyway, he was there. I’m hobbling up there and he said, ‘You want me to just carry you there?’ I said I don’t want to be carried, but if your buddies could block anybody I wouldn’t be in this position.”
He continued to share funny stories and answered questions.
He also talked about injuries and the information about injuries that’s out there.
“In my day, they never said the word concussion,” Manning said. “They never said concussion. You got dinged.”
Manning agreed with the steps that are being taken to make the game of football safer.
“The pros have changed,” Manning said. “They’re not using their bodies as missiles anymore. The fines that used to be $5,000 are now $50,000. That’s what the pros are doing. I think colleges have it better. If you’re targeting somebody, you’re out of the game. I think they’re on the right track there. They’ve really cut down in practices the contact. A lot of high school associations have restricted the minutes during the week that you can have contact in practice, so that’s a good thing.”