How Peyton Manning got his name
Archie Manning was in fifth grade. He breathed football, loved it to the core of his being and he didn't want to miss one game of the Drew High School football team.
But his dad, Buddy Manning, who worked long hours in the farm equipment business in Drew, Miss., just didn't have time to take his son to the away games.
Archie Manning had a savior. His name was Peyton.
Uncle Peyton, who lived on a nearby farm, would take time out of his life to haul his nephew to towns surrounding Drew, to sit under the magical and bright lights of Friday night football.
Uncle Peyton was a guy who carried bourbon around in a flask, taking nips throughout the day. He swore like a sailor.
But when he took Archie around, he did none of that. Single his entire life, Uncle Peyton said some of his very best times were the ones with Archie at those football games. He didn't want those nights to end so on Saturdays, Peyton could be found milling the streets of Drew buying Archie ice cream at the five-and-dime store. Sometimes, Archie would go to his uncle's farm and chop cotton with Peyton, who gave him $3 a day for his hard work.
"The two grew close over the years. And there was just something about that name — Peyton — that was melodic and appealed to Archie's ear."
And that is the story of how legendary NFL star Peyton Manning got his name, after a bourbon-toting, foul-mouthed but caring uncle. It's one of a myriad of tales in the book"The Mannings: The Fall and Rise of a Football Family" by longtime Sports Illustrated writer Lars Anderson.
The book, which will be released Aug. 23, is not some risque, tell-all tome of the Manning dynasty. It's not a football-heavy playbook, either. It's a book about a family, a love of sports and the ups and downs they faced. The Mannings declined to "actively participate" in the writing of the book, Anderson says in the acknowledgments. But Archie Manning did help Anderson fact-check portions of the book.
Of the 305 pages, at least 200 focus solely on Archie, his childhood, the suicide of his father and the rise of an Ole Miss hero who could never become a superstar with the New Orleans Saints. The rest of the book is filled with stories of his three sons, Peyton, Eli and Cooper, who was forced to quit playing sports after he was diagnosed with a rare spinal condition at 18.
While much in the book about Peyton Manning isn't new, there are some stories that only die-hard Peyton fans may have heard.
Like his first football? It wasn't pigskin. As a tiny guy, Peyton and brother Cooper would rummage through the Saints locker room while their dad was at practice, looking for used athletic tape. They would take the sticky roll and crumple it into a ball, then run onto the field and throw. Here are some other Peyton Manning tidbits revealed in the book.
That second Super Bowl almost didn't happen
When Andrew Luck, Peyton Manning's replacement as Colts quarterback, soundly beat Manning in the AFC playoffs in January 2015, Manning almost retired. He had lost 24-13, throwing for 111 yards, compared to Luck's 265. Manning went home to New Orleans to talk to Archie and Olivia, his mom, about retiring. He weighed his options. Of course, he decided not to retire. That retirement wouldn't come until a year later, after he won his second Super Bowl against the Carolina Panthers. Late that night, hours after the 200th and final victory of his NFL career, after the reporters had finally finished with the questions, Manning met up with his family.
"Peyton didn't say it at this moment, but here, in the warm embrace of his family, the end had finally arrived."
And then there was one: Football
Football was his love, but Manning was also a really good basketball and baseball player. He had been a stellar pitcher, but after his sophomore year at Isadore Newman School, he gave up pitching. He wanted to save his arm for football.
However, during a summer game, his pitching staff depleted, the manager of the team, Billy Fitzgerald, told Manning he needed him to pitch. Manning wouldn't do it. Fitzgerald forced him. Furious, Manning threw his first pitch 10 feet over the batter's head, hitting the top of the backstop fence. On the next pitch, just to be sure Fitzgerald knew where he stood, Manning hit the batter square in his back. Fitzgerald never asked Manning to pitch again.
When Manning's high school basketball season rolled around, there was a problem. Fitzgerald was the coach. Manning, who had been the first one off the bench as a sophomore, was sure he would now be starting as a junior. But Fitzgerald told Manning that wasn't happening. The two argued for some time.
"Both agreed it would be in everyone's best interest if Peyton left the team, which he did, ending his basketball career."
The four quarterback sins
From the time he could toddle with a football in hand and make a throw, the four quarterback sins were etched into Manning's mind by his dad. These were mistakes Archie Manning believed led to QB failure, mistakes that a polished quarterback should never make. 1. Not being perfectly balanced when receiving snaps from center. 2. Stutter-stepping after receiving a snap. 3. Looking into the backfield when dropping back. 4. Patting the ball before throwing it, disrupting the timing with receivers.
"By the time Peyton was 17, coaches like (Jim) Mora graded Peyton's drops and throwing mechanics equal to those of elite college quarterbacks."
Peyton, the Notre Dame superstar
Manning could have easily been a member of the Irish. Among the colleges that recruited him the heaviest was Notre Dame. On a visit to South Bend, Cooper and Peyton Manning made believe they were playing for the Fighting Irish. Three times, they sprinted down the tunnel from the dressing room and ran out onto the field, imagining the crowd was erupting. They were "giddy."
But things got serious when Peyton Manning sat down with coach Lou Holtz. Manning took the meeting into his own hands. Question after question flew at Holtz, about the offense, the weight room, the quarterback coach, the wide receivers and running backs, the other recruits.
"(Holtz had) never been around a more inquisitive high school player than Peyton. The kid's thirsty mind made him even more appealing to Holtz, who promised Peyton immediate playing time."