THIBODAUX, La. — When Archie Manning was in his grandson’s shoes five-plus decades ago, he was torn between Mississippi State and Ole Miss. Sitting in Coach John Vaught’s office in Oxford after 20 minutes, Manning’s mind was made up.
“I was easy,” the Manning Family patriarch joked about his decision to eventually play for Vaught at Ole Miss.
“I was just glad to be offered,” he followed.
It was a different story for Arch Manning, though. Recruiting isn’t what it was decades ago, even years ago, but the next in line on the Manning Family tree still managed to stick to the family script. Whether you label it as “old-school” or “old-fashioned” — or simply more calculated and methodical — the cloud of mystique that hung over Manning’s recruitment is what ultimately thickened the plot.
After a June filled with official visits to Texas, Georgia and Alabama, Manning revealed he was headed to play for Steve Sarkisian on The Forty Acres. It came via his first-ever tweet on a verified account. Certainly, it’ll be his last tweet for some time.
Manning settled on the Longhorns late on Wednesday evening — two days after returning back to New Orleans from the family’s third official visit in as many weekends. That’s the same amount of time Uncle Peyton needed to pick Tennessee by the way. After a summer 7-on-7 session at Isidore Newman that night, Arch told his father his mind was made up. Like most fathers, Cooper implored his son to sleep on it.
In the hours leading up the 26th annual Manning Passing Academy, the Five-Star Plus+ quarterback called the coaches at Alabama and Georgia to inform them of his decision. He did the same to his uncles, Peyton and Eli, and Newman head coach Nelson Stewart, who had had a shotgun seat beside Arch and his family for the length of this journey. Then, he called Sarkisian and Texas quarterbacks coach AJ Milwee and assistant Terry Joseph to let them know that his recruitment is over.
Despite the national infatuation with Manning’s recruitment and his more reserved approach to it, Arch never wavered. Much like his play on the field, he was wildly consistent. He emphasized his relationships with coaches, their offensive backgrounds, and weighed life away from the field equally as much. Much like his grandfather, his father and both uncles, Arch found his own way to adapt the Manning model.
“The recruiting process can be stressful,” Eli Manning told On3. “He’strying to make these decisions and he’s done a good job talking to so many coaches, been on so many visits all over the place, and he was just ready to make a decision. He sat on it and eventually, one spot kept popping up — this is the right spot for me. He’s happy it’s behind him and now his focus can be on playing football and enjoying his senior season.
“With social media and access, Arch did a good job trying to keep things as simple as possible, to be true to his own personality. He doesn’t want to be famous; he wants to play football, he likes to compete, he likes his teammates and he’s gonna keep his focus. That’s the most important thing.”
Eli, who picked Ole Miss his senior year at Newman, also visited Texas during his recruitment. There are even more parallels to his uncles worth noting.
Peyton settled on Tennessee about two days removed from his official visit as a senior. Ahead of a scheduled trip to Florida, Peyton followed a similar protocol as his nephew before eventually telling Phil Fulmer he was headed to Knoxville. Peyton was equally as deliberate in his approach and over the years, he’s hosted Arch for offseason get-togethers.
Cooper noted that Arch passed “Peyton 202” last summer and his uncle has remained a presence in the background of this process for the past few months. When Peyton got the call on Thursday morning, he went through an array of different emotions. Ultimately, he knew exactly what his nephew was going through.
“He handled it really well,” the Hall of Famer told On3. “I shared my story with Arch last week and I remember a good feeling when I made my decision. Now, Arch has the same feeling.”
“I never bothered him to call for an update, but he called to let me know where he was going,” Peyton Manning continued. “That was news to me like everyone else. It’s his deal and he’s asked me about what the decision-making process was like for me, and if that helped then good, but I’m just proud of how he handled this whole thing. He did his homework, and picking one school for me was hard. I wish I could go to each of them for a year, but you can only pick one and go full speed ahead. He made the right decision and did his homework. I know he’s happy and I’m happy for him.”
Maybe not as happy as Grandpa, who has had the chance to watch Arch play every Friday since his freshman season at Newman. Archie has kept a close eye on his talented grandson but has merely been an observer in his recruitment. He’s deferred to Cooper, Ellen and Arch to act as the brain trust.
When the Manning Family patriarch learned that his namesake was heading to Austin to play for Sarkisian’s Longhorns, a sense of pride ran through Archie Manning, who believes the brain trust made a very complicated process appear seamless — and also have a little fun along the way.
“Everything in the world changes,” Archie Manning told On3. “Nothing in recruiting is like it was when Cooper went through it, when Peyton went through it and Eli went through it. For Arch, the experience wasn’t so flashy and they did a great job with that.”
“Heid went on all these visits, too, and he committed to every school,” he laughed. “Arch just committed to one.”
Now, it’s all gas and no brakes until December.