Cooper Manning, UM alumnus and the eldest son of football legend Archie and Olivia, has made a name for himself outside of his parents’ and siblings’ reputations. He hosts his own sports comedy broadcast called The Manning Hour on Fox Sports NFL Kickoff, and he holds a businessman profile as Principal and Senior Managing Director of Investor Relations for AJ Capital Partners.
In a Q&A format on Monday, a pair of Ole Miss Talbert Fellows — a cohort of student journalists at the university — asked Manning about his time at Ole Miss, his creative process for The Manning Hour and his high school football star son Arch Manning.
The following conversation has been edited for brevity and clarity.
Emma Harrington, integrated marketing and communications major: Thinking back on the choices you made in regards to classes and your major, how has that shaped the way you’ve been able to work in your career path? And what, if you could, go back and do anything different to help you in the future?
Manning: I started out as a business major, and it wasn’t that exciting to me — accounting specifically was kind of an uphill battle. Then, I had a friend who said, ‘You ought to be at journalism school,’ and I never even thought about it. It looked to him like it came easy to me.
I really got a lot of value out of doing the things I didn’t particularly like, like being a cameraman or being the behind-the-scenes folks. I was always really comfortable in front of the microphone and real comfortable just talking when I didn’t have anything planned. I wasn’t great — and I’m still not great — at script.
I am far more at ease when it’s adlib and reacting to questions. I would love to be better at memorizing things and saying them. I’m also very very appreciative of the guys on the editing side. I was not very good at editing. I always had to bring in someone to teach me how to do it.
One other thing I regret is that I was never a DJ when they had the local music. I’ve been working on my DJ voice. (Speaking in his “DJ voice”) But, you always have regrets.
Virginia White, integrated marketing and communications major: Can you tell us about the creative process for the ‘Manning Hour’?
Manning: It’s been amazingly fun — the amount of rope they give me to just do whatever I want. We always have a script, but it’s kind of loose. Sometimes we follow it. Sometimes I get kind of sideways and way away and totally go off the rails.
They never tell me, ‘Whoa, whoa, whoa. Come on, get back here.’ They let me go further. I let the guests dictate the nonsense and the humor, and I ask a lot of stupid questions hoping to get something different than what the viewers anticipate. We’re in our sixth year of The Manning Hour. Who woulda thunk?
Harrington: I wanted to ask you a little bit about your son, Arch. He’s definitely shaping up to be the next great Manning family quarterback. How has your experience with your brothers and father helped you to guide your son with what he’s doing, especially looking at college in the future?
Manning: I think it’s been very helpful just to kind of know how the media works a little bit and know that everything gets blown out of proportion a little bit — good and bad. I knew things would get cranked up. So, we kind of kept him a little more behind the scenes this freshman year, and then he had way more success than I think we thought.
Now — and again in the world of the internet and Twitter and things — one little article somewhere can turn into 30 articles somewhere else. So, fortunately, Arch has got a really good outlook and is a humble guy and thinks all of this attention is undeserved and kind of silly.
If my other son Heid was getting this attention, we’d be in big trouble because he would be wearing a cape to school, probably. And, dear goodness, I can’t imagine how big his head would be. The right thing is happening to the right son at the right time. Look out.
White: With all of your knowledge now, what advice would you give yourself when you were a student at Ole Miss?
Stay in school. Never graduate. I think going outside of the box is, in ways, so good. If something is presented to you and you’re thinking, “I dont think I’m going to be very good at it,” I learned more and got more out of things that went wrong than things that went right.
Manning was set to play football at Ole Miss before he was diagnosed with spinal stenosis and graduated with a degree in Broadcast Journalism from Ole Miss in 1996.