The Oilers traded him to the Vikings in 1983, and he retired two years later. Upon his return to New Orleans, he took a position with a brokerage firm but soon found his time being gobbled up by work. Tired of the boys coming second to a job, he left after four years. "When your children get older," he reasoned, "they're going to leave you. I wanted to spend all the time with them that I could...before they were gone."
Archie and his own father were somewhat different in this regard. Buddy Manning had attended his share of Archie's games, but his job as manager of a farm machinery dealership in Drew had always seemed his top priority. "I don't know if I'll be able to make it tonight," he would say. But then you would see Buddy at the game, standing off to the side with a little straw hat on his head, a smile on his face.
Buddy committed suicide one Saturday in August 1969, just a few weeks before Archie began his junior year at Ole Miss. He had suffered a stroke a few years before, and his health had been poor ever since; also, the business was struggling. Archie came home from a wedding reception and found his father in a bedroom, blood on his chest. He called a doctor and a friend. He wanted to keep his mother and sister away until he could clean things up. Archie was only 19, but people will tell you he had never been more a man.
So Buddy missed out on Archie's glory—not just the football glory that began in earnest that year, but the family glory that always meant far more to Archie. He missed Archie and Olivia's big church wedding in 1971. And he missed the births of their three boys and all the magic that came with them.
Back when he was still playing for the Saints, Archie returned home from practice each day and organized games for Cooper and Peyton and their neighborhood friends. Archie often filmed the games with his camcorder, pretending they were being broadcast on national TV. One day the boys lined up for pregame introductions, each stating his name, age and favorite team and player.
"Cooper Manning. Six years old. My favorite player is Roger Staubach. And I really like the San Diego Chargers."
Peyton stepped up, gave a smile, and said, "Peyton Manning. Age of four. And my favorite team is Wes Chandler."
Everyone laughed and pointed a finger at him, and Peyton knotted his soft, dimpled hands and started swinging. Just out of diapers and already he was mean and feisty, and he hated to lose. "You need an attitude adjustment," Archie had to tell him time and again. One day they got into a tiff, and Peyton said, "If you don't stop it, I'm going to tell Mama what you got her for Christmas." Archie stopped it. He knew the boy was serious.
After home games Cooper and Peyton joined Archie in the Saints' dressing room and visited with their favorite players. "We'd hang around with all these naked guys," Peyton recalls, "and it was real normal." Later he and his brother went out on the Superdome floor, fashioned footballs from strips of discarded tape and played rough-and-tumble the length of the field. The contests almost always ended in a fight, with Archie stepping in as peacemaker. "The day you two can finish a game without a fight will be a great day in my life," Archie told them.
That day didn't come until Peyton's sophomore year at Newman when he won the starting quarterback job and Cooper, a senior receiver, realized that he had to make peace with his brother or never see another pass thrown his way. In the first game Peyton rolled out and spotted Cooper wide open on a corner route. It was his first pass as a varsity player, and it looked certain to be a touchdown.