There is another.
The Manning family sits atop the mountain as the greatest in quarterbacking history, with dad Archie and sons Peyton and Eli combining for 20 Pro Bowl appearances, five NFL MVPs (all Peyton’s) and four Super Bowl wins (two apiece for Peyton and Eli).
Already it was a remarkable story, with Archie – a long-term NFL QB and College Football Hall of Famer – watching on as his sons surpassed his remarkable achievements.
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But his eldest son, Cooper – who planned to play wide receiver at his dad’s old school Ole Miss, but ended his playing career due to spinal stenosis – has ensured a third generation will emerge.
And on hype alone, there’s every chance Arch Manning could be the greatest one yet.
The decision on where Cooper’s oldest son would play college football wasn’t just tracked closely because of his lineage. Arch is a genuine superstar high schooler.
Playing at prestigious New Orleans private school Isidore Newman – where Archie’s three sons and others including Odell Beckham Jr. studied – Arch quickly emerged as the top prospect in the entire high school class of 2023.
Starting at quarterback as a freshman (year nine student), Arch received five-star grades from every major recruiting service.
Heading into his junior (year 11) season, Rivals wrote: “He’s surgical in his approach — with the ability to go through his progressions, make precise throws and consistently make smart decisions.
“Manning is fantastic in the pocket and is athletic enough to extend plays and make throws outside as well. He’s also a legitimate threat to make plays with his legs.
“Paired with the fact that football is engraved in his DNA, Manning packs a ton of upside at the most important position on the field.”
That running ability is the clear differentiator between Arch and his uncles Peyton and Eli, particularly the former, who was positively statuesque at times through his legendary career.
As a player, Arch is a lot more like his grandpa Archie, who was one of the few QBs who found success scrambling for the awful New Orleans teams of the 1970s.
Of course, being the No.1 QB prospect in a high school class is no guarantee of success.
But it’s a reasonably good indicator. Mark Sanchez (2005) and Matthew Stafford (2006) went in the top five of the NFL draft, Stafford finally winning a Super Bowl last year with Los Angeles. Jameis Winston (2012) was dominant in college and went No.1 in the NFL draft, and remains a solid option.
More recently, Trevor Lawrence (2018) went from top high school prospect to No.1 in the draft, while Alabama’s Bryce Young (2020) was the best player in college football last year, and shapes as the potential No.1 pick in the 2023 NFL Draft.
Of course, we won’t know until Arch takes the field – which won’t be until August 2023 at the earliest.
But perhaps the most interesting part of Manning’s burgeoning career was the decision he made on where to play football.
Understandably recruited by almost every top school in the country, Manning rejected the most recent national champions Georgia, Alabama, LSU and Clemson to instead attend the University of Texas.
Texas is one of the biggest and richest schools in the land, and has won the third-most games in college football history. They are undoubtedly a big fish – yet one that has been floundering on the banks of a giant lake, seemingly filled to the brim with water but in reality bone dry.
They are a fallen giant, lost in the wilderness for almost a decade and a half. For years they have been fighting both an inability to turn highly-rated high schoolers into quality players, and themselves.
This is the school that saw some of its own players rebel against the traditional school song, which has a racist history, with too many millionaire supporters to actually rein in – all of them wanting a piece of the pie and behind-the-scenes power.
The Longhorns have won 10 games in a season (which typically lasts 13 or 14 games) just once since 2009, and had a losing record last year in the first season under coach Steve Sarkisian – including an unthinkable loss to conference embarrassment Kansas.
All of that makes Manning’s decision remarkable. He already has the enormous weight of expectations upon him based on his name; now he needs to become the kid who saved Texas.
“Coming off a disastrous 5-7 season, the Longhorns pulled off a recruiting win that may be as meaningful and consequential as landing Vince Young, who was also the No.1 overall recruit in the country, in the 2002 class,” The Athletic’s Sam Khan Jr. wrote.
It’s safe to say Young was incredibly consequential.
The dual-threat quarterback was the linchpin of Texas’ last national championship win in 2005, running for the last-second, fourth-down, game-winning touchdown against a USC team that had won 34 consecutive games.
While his NFL career never quite took off, thanks to the Tennessee Titans not quite knowing how to handle him, Young entered college football folklore with his Rose Bowl performance.
That is what Texas will want Manning to become – and all of that for a kid who, otherwise, has gone against the trend in college recruiting.
The introduction of Name, Image and Likeness rights (NIL) has allowed players to get paid over the table – as opposed to previous decades filled with the opposite – in exchange for endorsement deals.
In reality schools, or more specifically their millionaire and billionaire fans, are using NIL to try and lure players to their alma maters. (There is a massive grey area here, somewhat in a legal sense but primarily terms of the sport’s hard-to-implement rules, governed by the NCAA.)
This has seen many public reports about millions of dollars going to high schoolers, in a recruiting system that already sees players try to spread their names far and wide, celebrating the ability to land luxury cars at 18 years old.
We’re certainly not saying anything is wrong with that – players have been historically massively underpaid and deserve to get their value – but it’s quite the shift.
In contrast Manning’s recruitment has been very traditional. He’s quiet; so quiet that his first ever tweet was announcing he was signing at Texas. His Twitter bio is still just “high school student”.
It remains to be seen how he will handle life at Texas, though you’d expect there’s never been a player better prepared for the intense media spotlight than a third-generation Manning.
Meanwhile, on the field, there’s a strange sideplot to all of this.
Landing Manning is certainly a coup for Texas, and you imagine he wouldn’t pick a school where he didn’t think he’d be the starting quarterback.
But just six months ago, quarterback Quinn Ewers – the No.1 recruit in the class of 2021 – transferred to Texas after a year at Ohio State, where he originally committed.
Ewers is yet to take a snap on a college football field, but signed a $US1.4 million NIL deal last September – which reportedly isn’t the only deal he has signed – and drives an Aston Martin around his new school. He is an enormously talented prospect and already held the weight of expectations he would be the one to save Texas.
Some optimistic Longhorns fans have suggested the school must be planning to redshirt Manning – a forced year on the sidelines which doesn’t use one of his four years of college eligibility – while Ewers starts in 2022 and 2023, before moving into the NFL.
But the idea of Manning redshirting is laughable in a modern college football context where almost all top recruits start immediately. Ewers was a notable exception at Ohio State, skipping his senior year at high school to enrol early and sitting behind star quarterback CJ Stroud before the decision to transfer.
If Ewers plays well in 2022, a quarterback battle – between two of the very best prospects we’ve seen in recent years – looms large.
And in modern college football, where players can transfer and play immediately (rather than sitting out a year), that almost always sees the loser join another school.
So while Manning will start his college career as a Longhorn, there’s no guarantee he’ll end it the same way.