By Jeff Roberson
Special to the Journal
OXFORD – In a red carpet ceremony, the first family of football was honored at Ole Miss Friday at the initial showing of a new ESPN film called “The Book of Manning.”
Beyond that, the event served as an announcement opportunity by Ole Miss for the indoor practice facility, opened in 2004 and under renovation and expansion, to be named The Olivia and Archie Manning Athletics Performance Center.
Also of note is that $100,000 was raised for Blair Batson Children’s Hospital at The University of Mississippi Medical Center in Jackson.
“I’m honored and flattered that Ole Miss wanted to make an event out of this,” said Archie Manning, joined at the event by several members of his family and many former Ole Miss teammates. “The real benefactor will be Blair Batson
Children’s Hospital in Jackson. That’s something Eli has really been committed to. The Eli Manning Children’s Clinic is there. That’s going to help our sick children in Mississippi to get well and go home.”
focus on family
Those at the Ford Center on campus were treated to the debut of the film which mainly deals with Archie as the patriarch of a football family, his childhood in the Mississippi Delta, the loss of his father at a young age, and his college and pro football career. But it also is a story of being a father to three sons – Cooper, Peyton, and Eli – and husband to Olivia.
“I did get to view the documentary,” Manning said before the event. “Olivia and I like it. This is a great night for us.”
Billy VanDevender and family, one of Archie’s Ole Miss teammates and closest friends, partnered with the Mannings to make a significant contribution.
“We are extremely grateful for Olivia and Archie Manning’s commitment to Ole Miss and our athletics program,” Bjork said. “I noticed a void around the name of the IPF, so in my mind there was no one better to name the new facility after than Olivia and Archie. Honoring them in this special way is meaningful on many levels, and we are appreciative of the donations that were made to support this effort.”
Manning said he and his family are humbled by the honor and by the documentary.
“I feel a little awkward talking about it, because it’s about me,” Manning said. “I want Mississippi people, Ole Miss people, to enjoy it. It’s about family, and I hope that will be a good influence.”