On Feb. 7, 1999, Eli Manning signed his letter of intent to play football at the University of Mississippi.
Leading up to Eli’s 1999 signing day, Ole Miss fans were on the edge of their seats hoping that Archie’s youngest son would make their wildest dreams come true and lead the red and blue like his father did in 1970.
Archie Manning was etched into Ole Miss lore as perhaps the best quarterback to roam campus, and his son Peyton broke the hearts of Ole Miss fans a few years prior when he chose to play football at the University of Tennessee.
Still, the legacy of Archie was strong at Ole Miss. Throw in the fact that his eldest son Cooper had a stint as a Rebel wide receiver before health issues sidelined him, and Rebel fans were enthralled with the name of Manning, and for good reason.
Obviously, their wishes were granted.
Eli Manning not only signed with Ole Miss, but led the Rebels to national prominence in a collegiate career that was capped with a Cotton Bowl victory over Oklahoma State at the conclusion of his senior season in 2003.
His NFL career was marked with highs and lows, but the highest of highs came on February 3, 2008, when Manning quarterbacked the Giants to a Super Bowl win over the previously-undefeated New England Patriots, ending their hopes of capping off the best season in NFL history.
Manning won the Super Bowl XLII MVP for his performance and also knocked off the Patriots in Super Bowl XLVI where he earned another MVP honor.
As with most great athletes, age began to catch up to Manning late in his career, and the talent around him on the Giants roster faded, as did his own numbers. The Giants did not make the playoffs again after their Super Bowl XLVI win until 2016 and have not qualified for the postseason since.
In the most recent NFL Draft, the Giants selected Daniel Jones out of Duke, who was coached by David Cutcliffe, Eli’s college head coach and Peyton’s offensive coordinator at Tennessee.
After an 0-2 start to the 2019 season, the Giants announced that Jones would be their starting quarterback moving forward and Manning would be benched.
While I disagree with the Giants’ handling of Manning’s situation, they can’t be faulted for wanting to see their young talent in action and see if he has a future in New York. Still now the future is uncertain for their two-time Super Bowl MVP quarterback. Will he be shipped off to another team, or will his career come to a conclusion in New York as a backup?
Regardless of the answer, I believe that Manning should be an undisputed Hall-of-Famer. While his NFL numbers never met those of his older brother, he led two Giants teams that were, in all honesty, less than elite to Super Bowl titles over Tom Brady and the New England Patriots and earned Super Bowl MVP honors in the process. Among players eligible for the Pro Football Hall of Fame, 13 Super Bowl MVPs have not been enshrined.
Archie was not inducted into the Hall of Fame, but Peyton will, in all certainty, be a first-ballot inductee. Eli was never the best quarterback in the league, but his numbers and accolades are more than deserving of the Hall of Fame.
In the end, Eli Manning will be forever idolized at Ole Miss and should be in the NFL, as well. He now shares the honor of his jersey No. 10 being part of the speed limit on campus with his father’s No. 18 and is enshrined on Manning Way.
Hopefully Manning’s career isn’t done, but if it is, hopefully he will be properly honored with a Hall of Fame induction and the lasting memory of what he brought to the sport we hold so dear.