Manning boys have fond Neshoba memories
Wednesday, January 29, 2014 12:00 AM
Ask Cooper Manning about Neshoba County and the stories just start spilling out.
Peyton at Williamsville as Colts quarterback in the early 2000s
All of the Manning boys learned life lessons here. And another one of them, Peyton, will appear again in the Super Bowl on Sunday, which airs at 5:30 p.m. on FOX.
Combined, it will be the Mannings' fifth run for the Lombardi Trophy. (See story, page 1B.)
So, by now, it's hard to imagine anyone who doesn't know their mother Olivia grew up in Philadelphia and that the brothers all worked part-time during the summers of their youth at Williams Brothers.
But here's the side you may not know. They learned to drive in their grandfather's truck. They learned the value of a hard day's work. And they learned that a hard day of work starts best by waking to fresh eggs and bacon at 6 a.m.
They learned that there were always going to be neighborhood kids and cousins to play football with, whether they were in Philadelphia or New Orleans. They learned all that, and so much more.
It was late one afternoon, after a long day of working at Williams Brothers that Cooper Manning got his first idea of what it was like to be in over his head.
"Everyone I worked with when I was a freshman in high school is still working there today," Manning said from his office in New Orleans, where he works as an energy trader.
"I remember every afternoon we used to have a pickup game of basketball on the old filthy blacktop."
Often the only white guy involved, Manning said he learned a lot about humility.
"I passed a lot," he said with a laugh. "After a while I earned enough trust to shoot it every now and then, but I only got the ball passed to me because the other guys figured they would probably get it back.
"One afternoon, we played for hours and hours until it was almost dusk, then we set out for the next town to buy some beer. By the time we got there, I was so thirsty that I downed a (quart?) 40-ounce beer before we ever got back. To this day, I've never drank so quickly in my life - I was weaving all over the place."
But did he get in trouble?
"Whatever happened," he said. "I deserved it at that point."
Peyton, the middle brother, will lace up his spikes to play in his third Super Bowl. He's 1-1, with a 29-17 win over the Chicago Bears in 2007 and a 31-17 loss to the New Orleans Saints in 2010.
The Mannings and surely most of Neshoba County will cheer him on Sunday, but you can bet his brothers aren't letting Peyton forget that the youngest of the bunch, Eli, is 2-0 in Super Bowl appearances.
That competitiveness was prevalent when the boys came to visit their grandparents all those years ago.
Peyton Manning is the grandson of the late Amzie Cooper Williams and Frances Thomas Williams of Philadelphia. His mother is the former Olivia Williams who married Archie in 1971 in that storybook wedding at The First Baptist Church.
Olivia Manning isn't granting interviews this Super Bowl and said she didn't want to appear biased by granting one to her hometown newspaper. Completely understood. Cooper filled in with his stories.
"We were there a lot around Christmas time and the holidays," Cooper recalled. "They had a great-big, huge back yard to play football in, and there were a lot of kids in the neighborhood."
When he comes back each year for the Neshoba County Fair, Cooper said he still runs into some of the same kids from the old neighborhood on Poplar, only they aren't kids anymore.
"Most of them are doing what I'm doing - trying to corral my kids," he said.
While the two younger brothers are still playing out their already-storied careers, Cooper said he's trying to get his kids to Neshoba at least once a year, for the Fair.
It just wouldn't be right, he says, if he didn't throw away his sons' mud-stained clothes after a week of play just as Archie and Olivia had to do for he and his brothers.
Cooper's daughter is 11, and his boys are 9 and 8.
You'll be happy to know the competitive streak didn't skip a generation, either.
"We play them all," Cooper said. "My daughter is into volleyball and tennis, and the boys are playing flag football, basketball, baseball and golf. It's fun. We have incredibly competitive ping pong games, and I had to break up a hoops fight last night."
Peyton's twins, Mosely and Marshall, and Eli's little girl, Ava, are all about to turn 3. Things are kind of hectic right now, but Cooper said he can't wait until the whole family can gather at the fair each year.
"We always had great times at the Fair," Cooper Manning said. "My family won't miss one, and when Peyton and Eli's kids grow a little and their time is freed up, they'll come, too. It's a great tradition."