Well, my research did not uncover this statistic, but according to the NFL Players Association, “of the 100,000 high school seniors who play football every year, only 215 will make an NFL roster. That is 0.2%!” And of the 9,000 players who compete on the collegiate level each year, only 3.5% of those players receive an invitation to the NFL scouting combine.
Indeed, the odds of playing professional football on Sunday are tough, and competing against your sibling at the same time – that is even tougher.
You would think that there’s a secret to raising professional athletes. But if you ask Archie Manning, also known as the father of Peyton and Eli Manning, two of the most recognizable faces in the NFL, he will tell you that a how to guide does not exist. In fact, he shrugs off talk that suggests he planned, from day one, to raise NFL athletes.
Peyton and Eli both play the quarterback position, and have led their respective teams to the Super Bowl. In 11 playoff appearances with his former team, Indianapolis Colts, Peyton made it to the Super Bowl twice (a Super Bowl XLI win over Chicago and a Super Bowl XLIV loss to New Orleans). While younger brother, Eli, on the other hand, is hungry for a third Super Bowl ring (he has two wins over New England – Super Bowl XLII and Super Bowl XLVI). However, when it comes to sibling rivalry, Peyton leads the “Manning Bowl” series, going a perfect 3-0.
So, what was it like growing up Manning?
In the third season of ESPN Films’ SEC Storied documentary series, which kicks off tonight with The Book of Manning (Tuesday, September 24, at 8:00 p.m. ET on ESPN), that question is explored and answered.
In anticipation of the premiere, Archie spoke with members of the media about being the Manning patriarch, his days as a star quarterback at Ole Miss and former NFL quarterback with the New Orleans Saints, and raising three sons (Cooper, Peyton, and Eli) each with football dreams in their own right. Here are excerpts of his comments:
On recognizing Peyton and Eli’s athletic potential
Archie: I don’t know if we ever talked about it. It just evolved. People will tell you, I was always very reluctant, very slow to talk about their future.
Maybe the first Manning Bowl in ’06, I remember us sitting down and looking at each other and just saying, “What in the world is going on here?” When Peyton won his Super Bowl MVP and the next year the Giants and Eli won one. That’s when it hit us, this wasn’t a plan.
On advice about playing the quarterback position
Archie: I think the first thing that my sons will tell you, that I never tried to be their coach. I didn’t give them as much advice as some people might think, being a former player myself and a former quarterback. If they asked, I gave them my opinion.
But I think that they would tell you this, too. I tell the same thing to young quarterbacks. The best advice I try to give a young quarterback is, you need to know what you’re doing. You need to know what you’re doing, because if you know where to go with the football, you can get rid of it and throw it and you won’t get hit. And that’s advice a quarterback needs to have, especially a passing quarterback or somebody that’s going to be in the pocket.
On raising professional athletes and advice for parents
Archie: I don’t think that’s a goal that parents should have for their children, whatever sport it is, to be a professional [athlete]. As parents, we don’t need to be the ones that push that. They have to like it and enjoy it and want to do it. And parents, we are just there to support [them]. It never was a goal to get Peyton to the NFL, and so even though he got there, it wasn’t our goal to push Eli along to get to the NFL. They were motivated to play and get better, and they had a great work ethic. That’s why they got there.
My advice for parents is to support your children, make sure they are having fun. Support them and be there for them. Give them encouragement and make it a life lesson that along the way they are learning to make good decisions and do the right thing.
On Cooper and Peyton’s health concerns
Archie: It’s been a real blessing and maybe somewhat of a miracle what Cooper went through. Immediately, of course, we wanted to check on Peyton and Eli and have them checked to make sure they didn’t have that same stenosis, which they didn’t.
And then, knock‑on‑wood here, they both have been so fortunate in regard to injuries in their career. So when Peyton had his first neck surgery and the second and the third and the fourth, obviously we were concerned. Football wasn’t primary on our mind, it was ‑‑ let’s try to get Peyton healthy.
The fact that all the doctors cleared him to play again, there’s no guarantee you’ll get to come back and play. A lot of people didn’t think he would. We just didn’t know. He never took football for granted because of what happened to Cooper. But I think he always knew he was fortunate in regard to health. But he wasn’t ready for his career to be over, not like that. Not [after] four surgeries and having to leave the place where he had been so long. He just didn’t want it to end right there.
On Peyton and Eli’s NFL endorsements.
Archie: If you look at their history, the associations they have and the corporate partners they have, it’s quality. I’ve always thought if you’re going to have a relationship like that, you hope it’s not just a quick one; that it’s something meaningful, and you’re part of something within the company. The DIRECTV [Football on Your Phone] the rap video was certainly odd to me, I had a very small part. This is a 15‑year relationship our family has had with DIRECTTV. They are a wonderful company and they have great people. They are a big part of the NFL, so it’s a good tie‑in.