- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
- TAMPA BAY buccaneersENEMY lines WHAT A RIVAL COACH SAYSJune 28, 2012
- Faces in the CrowdJune 11, 2001
Perhaps the loudest campus protest of the year will occur late in November when one quarterback, and only one, emerges as the consensus All-America and, most likely, the Heisman Trophy winner. For instance, if that quarterback is not Jim Plunkett (right) then Stanford is going to let the rest of the country hear about it. If it is Plunkett, then Ohio State is going to be just as vocal, arguing that it should have been Rex Kern (far right). There will also be screams from Mississippi, Florida, Notre Dame—well, from all over. There are more outstanding quarterbacks this season than ever before, and those who are shown on the following pages are only some of the best. But not all. So let's not have any protests, please.
...and the best of them all is ARCHIE
Even his best friends would agree that Elisha Archie Manning III hardly resembles Mr. Good-Looking All-America Cover Boy Quarterback. He has red hair, freckles and a rather prominent nose, and his sturdy young face always seems to reflect a certain quality of sadness and rural innocence. The press has frequently called him college football's Huckleberry Finn and, in fact, it is not difficult to envision Manning back home in rustic little Drew, Miss. (pop. 2,143), sailing down the river on a raft or sneaking off to some secret shady fishing hole. All of which makes it rather remarkable that Archie Manning of the Ole Miss Rebels is not only the quarterback for this—or, perhaps any—college season, but also the object of one of the wildest displays of adulation ever accorded any athlete anywhere, anytime.
The phenomenon now known as "Archie Fever" began last fall when, as a junior, Manning passed and ran the Rebels to an 8-3 record—including an upset of Arkansas in the Sugar Bowl. First red-and-blue buttons inscribed "Archie" or "Archie's Army" blossomed like dogwood all over the Ole Miss campus in Oxford. Then some Tennessee fans came up with "Archie Who?" buttons, and the craze was on. After Archie and the Rebels wiped out Tennessee 38-0 in Jackson, Ole Miss came back with "You Know Damn Well Who" buttons. Lamont Wilson, a postal clerk in Magnolia, Miss., took the tune of Johnny Cash's Folsom Prison Bines and hastily worked up a ditty entitled The Ballad of Archie Who. Recorded on the Hoddy Toddy label by a guitar-twanging group known as The Rebel Rousers, the song sold 35,000 copies quicker than you can whistle Dixie, and young Manning became a sort of instant folk hero.
Now, with Archie starting his senior season, the fever has spread through the land. At least five writers have offered to tell his story, and this fall his soulful blue eyes will be peering out from several magazine covers. So great is the demand for his autograph that the Ole Miss athletic department has made a rubber stamp of his signature and assigned a secretary to handle his mail. Finally, a fast-food chain wanted to sell "Archie Burgers," and a Memphis manufacturer tried to put out an entire line of Archie products—including a life-size Archie balloon.
"I've never seen anything like it," says Ole Miss Coach Johnny Vaught, who has seen his share in 24 years as head coach in Oxford. "I guess it's the times, the desire to glorify athletes, like the Namath thing. Thank goodness Archie is a smart man, a sensible man and he hasn't let any of it go to his head. Why, I don't think he even thinks about it."
"Oh, sure, I've kind of wondered about it," says Archie, who blushes and squirms uncomfortably when forced into self-consciousness. "The only thing I can figure out is that Archie is a different name. Maybe if it were Bill or something none of this would have started. I don't mind too much because I've always wanted to be an athlete. The only thing that worries me is how my teammates feel. If they keep joking about it, then it's all right with me."
Beneath all the hoopla there is a marvelous football player. Two years ago Manning had the finest season, statistically, of any Ole Miss back since Charlie Conerly was running the single wing in 1947. He gained 208 yards rushing and 1,510 in passing as Ole Miss finished with a 7-3-1 record, including a Liberty Bowl victory. Last season Archie's statistics were even more impressive. He completed 154 of 265 passes for 1,762 yards and nine touchdowns and ran 124 times for 502 yards and 14 more touchdowns. His 2,264 yards in total offense included 540 yards in one game, that wild, nationally televised 33-32 loss to Alabama.
His play earned him more awards and trophies than his mother could fit into the trophy cases at their home in Drew. The most noteworthy was the Walter Camp Memorial Award for the outstanding college back in America given by the Washington Touchdown Club. Attending the club's black-tie dinner to receive the award, Archie found himself seated between Supreme Court Justice Douglas and former Justice Clark, which is an awkward spot for a Southerner to find himself in these days.
"Well, young man," said Clark, waving a hand toward the 2,500 who attended the dinner, "I guess you're used to crowds like this."