“Super” Manning Gets Golden Honor

Archie to receive 2016 National Football Foundation Gold Medal

       One of my favorite memories of the Saints return to the Superdome on Sept. 25, 2006, after a year displaced by Hurricane Katrina, occurred just before the Superdome’s doors re-opened.

       With fans packed on the ramp outside of the Gate C entrance, Archie Manning took to an ESPN riser to look over the passionate, packed-in fans counting down the seconds until they could see the return of the Saints to the refurbished stadium. A roar rose from the crowd as he was instantly recognized. Now this was before Steve Gleason’s epic punt, before the Super Bowl, before we knew just how good Drew Brees would be in black & gold. Although he hadn’t played for the Saints since 1982, he was still the city’s biggest football legend.

       Manning was drenched in the golden light of the setting sun, soaking it all in. In typical fashion, he gave a humble wave and a nod acknowledging the crowd and split, not wanting to take away from the bigger moment at hand.

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       I was reminded of the scene this week after the National Football Foundation announced that Manning will receive its 2016 Gold Medal in recognition of his achievements, exceptional leadership, unblemished reputation, and contributions to our nation.

       “Archie Manning became an icon as one of the greatest players to ever set foot on the gridiron, and he subsequently used his standing to become one of the game’s greatest ambassadors,” said NFF President & CEO Steve Hatchell. “The entire football community has been blessed by his enormous contributions. He has earned this honor many times over, and we are extremely proud to add his name to the esteemed list of past NFF Gold Medal recipients.”

       The highest and most prestigious award presented by the National Football Foundation, the Gold Medal recognizes an outstanding American who has demonstrated integrity and honesty; achieved significant career success; and has reflected the basic values of those who have excelled in amateur sport, particularly football.

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       Manning, a 1989 inductee into the College Football Hall of Fame, played quarterback at Ole Miss from 1968-1970 for Hall of Fame Coach Johnny Vaught. He earned All-America and All-SEC honors in both 1969 and 1970, and he finished fourth in balloting for the Heisman Trophy in 1969 and third in 1970. The Saints selected him as the No. 2 overall pick in the 1971 NFL Draft. The two-time Pro Bowler had a 14-year NFL career. In 1978, he was named the NFC Most Valuable Player by Sporting News and the NFC Offensive Player of the Year by UPI.

       His post-football career has included successful roles as an investment broker, broadcaster, restaurateur, endorser, community leader and philanthropist.

       He is equally admired as patriarch of “the first family of football.” His sons, Peyton and Eli, are also legendary college and professional quarterbacks, each having won the Super Bowl twice.

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       In 1996, the family launched the Manning Passing Academy, a annual, week-long skills camp to mentor high school football players. The camp has reached more than 21,000 players and had an annual economic impact of more than $4.5 million on the host campus at Nicholls State University in Thibodaux, La.

       “His exceptional composure enabled him to handle adversity both on and off the field, and he has remained deeply committed to his family and the community,” said NFF Awards Committee Chairman Jack Ford. “His focus has always been on others and making those around him better. No individual is more worthy of our highest honor, and we look forward to celebrating the excellence he has come to personify.”

       The NFF distributes more than $1.3 million each year and recognizes thousands of student-athletes for their accomplishments on and off the field. The local NFF Allstate Sugar Bowl Chapter in New Orleans, distributes more than $40,000 in scholarships for high school football players annually.

       First presented to President Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1958, Manning will become the 63rd recipient of the NFF Gold Medal. The award boasts an impressive list of past recipients, including seven presidents, four generals, three admirals, a Supreme Court Justice, 29 corporate  CEOs and chairmen, actor John Wayne and baseball immortal Jackie Robinson.

       Manning will be honored at the 59th NFF Annual Awards Dinner on Dec. 6, at the Waldorf Astoria in New York. In addition to the presentation of the NFF Major Awards, the 2016 College Football Hall of Fame Class, which includes legendary LSU quarterback Bert Jones, will be inducted.

       Archie and his wife, Olivia, reside in New Orleans, and in addition to their three sons and daughters-in-law, they have eight grandchildren.



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