Under those Friday night lights, Archie and Olivia Manning sit in the bleachers at Isidore Newman School in the uptown section of New Orleans. They turn and look at one another and just shake their heads.
Here they are again, watching a high school quarterback named Manning make magic on a football field.
This time it’s their grandson Arch Manning, Archie Manning’s namesake and son of the eldest of the Manning trio of boys, Cooper.
This time, it’s hard to fathom, but the quarterback they’re watching may just be better than any of those Manning boys before him who took to that same field in the 1990s.
“He’s probably a little ahead of them as a freshman,” Archie Manning said, when asked if he thinks Arch could be better than his uncles Peyton and Eli. They played junior varsity as freshmen and started as sophomores.
Not Arch, a 6-1 graduate of the class of 2023, who earned a spot on varsity after a scrimmage game for Isidore Newman in May. He threw for three touchdowns, all while displaying accuracy, arm strength and something his uncles have never really been known for — agility.
Arch has already been noticed by Ole Miss, where Eli and Archie played, and Tennessee, Peyton’s alma mater. And the buzz. The social media and media requests. The attention Arch is already getting is surreal, said his grandfather.
But he’s not talking. Not to college coaches. Not to the media.
“Our theme is, ‘Let’s let Arch be a freshman,'” Manning told IndyStar last week in a sit-down interview.
Just let him play ball, Manning said. And watching Arch play ball reminds Manning a lot of Cooper.
Manning says Cooper was, by far, the best athlete of the family. He played high school sports and could have played college, but was forced to quit after being diagnosed with a rare spinal condition at 18.
“(He) kind of got cheated out of that,” said Manning. “Had to have big-time surgery and had to give it up.”
Manning is thrilled that Cooper is getting to experience the joy of watching his son as a football phenom himself.
And he and Manning are trying to make sure Arch doesn’t feel too much pressure.
“(Arch is) playing good, he’s on a good team, they’re having a lot of success and having a lot of fun and that’s the way it should be,” Manning said. “That’s the one thing I always told my kids and I’ll tell Arch the day before a game. ‘Go have fun.'”
As for those Friday night games, Archie Manning loves every minute of it.
“I mean, we did the Friday night thing for years and years. We did Saturday and we’ve done Sundays and it looked like we were about through with that and here we are on Friday nights again,” he said. “But it’s fun. There is no greater institution than high school football.”