Archie Manning, born on May 19, 1949, went from growing up in relative obscurity in the small town of Drew, Mississippi (population 2,434) in the northwest portion of the state of Mississippi to achieving fame and fortune as the quarterback of the New Orleans Saints of the National Football League (NFL). While quarterbacking the Saints football team Manning was never able to take the Louisiana team to the promised land of a Super Bowl championship but he did give fans something to cheer about and a local southern boy to root for. Over the course of his ten year career with the Saints Archie Manning became arguable the favorite player of southern football fans.
Archie Manning grew up less than 100 miles from the Louisiana border in a time when the upstart professional football teams in the southern states were the Dallas Cowboys (founded in 1960), Houston Oilers (founded 1960), Atlanta Falcons (founded in 1966), Miami Dolphins (founded 1966), and New Orleans Saints (founded in 1967). Since the time that Manning was coming up as a young football player the NFL has since expanded into the cities of Tampa Bay, Jacksonville, Nashville, and Charlotte in terms of southern cities represented in the now 32 team league. In many respects the timeline for the rise of Archie Manning closely mirrors the rise of the beginning of the NFL in terms of main stream notoriety. Unlike the sport of baseball which tracks its history back to at least the turn of the twentieth century with meticulous statistics and records main stream football is a comparatively more recent phenomenon in the United States. The first Super Bowl occurred only as far back as 1966.
After playing his college football at the University of Mississippi (commonly referred to as Ole Miss) Archie was a prized NFL prospect due to his success as a collegiate athlete. Although a lot of teams wanted the heralded right handed signal caller from Ole Miss the New Orleans Saints were lucky enough to draft him with the number two overall pick in the first round of the 1971 NFL Draft that was held on January 28, 1971. New Orleans fans rejoiced over the pick which offered the prospect of bringing in a son of the south to lead the upstart New Orleans Saints.
Manning would go onto play ten years with the New Orleans Saints where despite exceptional individual performances he was never able to turn the franchise around into a sustainably winning program. During his tenure in New Orleans he was always a crowd favorite despite the woeful win-loss records the team often posted at the end of most years. For his efforts he was twice selected as a Pro Bowl quarterback (1978 and 1979) and in 1978 he was named the NFC Offensive Player of the Year.
Although Archie Manning spent the final two years of his career bouncing from the Houston Oilers to the Minnesota Vikings every fan who watched the skilled 6’3″ right handed passer play during that era remembers him best in a New Orleans Saints uniform. For nearly four decades Archie has served as a face of the New Orleans team in one capacity or another as he is quite arguably the best player to play for the Saints.