Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Archie Manning, Drew Mississippi, and "The Ballad Of Archie Who"

You may have heard of Peyton Manning, The Indianapolis Colts QB who led his team to a Super Bowl win in 2007. 
You may have heard of his little brother Eli, who did the same for the New York Giants. 

Enough about them. 

Back in 1970, it was all about their father, Archie Manning.  Archie is THE favorite son of Drew, Mississippi.  According to Time magazine, Drew had a population of 2,143 people at the height of Archie Fever.  We lived between Drew and Merigold, but Drew was where I went to school, where we went to church, and where almost all of my friends lived.  My father had been friends with Archie's father.  Archie's mother did work for our attorney. 
Drew Mississippi children were told that they had to eat their spinach if they wanted to grow up to be big and strong like Archie. 

(Just for the record, Drew's other favorite sons are "Pop" Staples, who went on to form The Staple Singers, and Tommy Johnson, who wrote the old blues classic "Canned Heat Blues".)

Here's Time magazine, from way back in 1970, talking about some of the Heisman Trophy hopefuls of that year:

....In Mississippi, the entire state is in the throes of "Archie fever." The town council of Drew (pop. 2,143) has erected highway signs proudly proclaiming: HOME OF ARCHIE MANNING OF THE OLE MISS REBELS. To accommodate national TV coverage for Archie, the state legislature spent $150,000 to improve the lighting in the Memorial Stadium in Jackson, while at the University of Mississippi's Hemingway Stadium they only half-jokingly call the new artificial turf the "Archie Manning Memorial Carpet." Beyond that, there are buttons (ARCHIE FOR HEISMAN TROPHY), bumper stickers (ARCHIE'S ARMY), Archie handbills, Archie posters, Archie dolls, Archie T shirts and an Archie campaign song that has sold more than 50,000 copies. Sung by the Rebel Rousers on the Hoddy Toddy label, The Ballad of Archie Who is a twangy tribute to "the best dadburned quarterback to ever play the game":

The ball is on the fifty,
The down is third and ten,
He runs it down the sidelines;
Yes, Archie takes it in.

Until he injured his left wrist last week, Manning had as good a claim to the trophy as anyone in college football. He became known as Heismanning last season when he passed for nine touchdowns and ran for 14 more to pile up a remarkable 2,264 yds. in total offense. So far this season, he has tossed eleven touchdown passes in six games. A roll-out passer who likes to look in one direction and throw in another, the 6-ft, 3½-in., 205-lb. Manning has the size to uncork the long bomb —or fake it and go powering down the sidelines. A freckle-faced country boy, he looks a bit like Huck Finn in hip pads—and talks like him too. When asked about Archie fever, he says, "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." Not a chance.
I don't remember the exact reason for the "Archie Who?" references.  I think an opposing coach was asked how he thought "Archie" would do against his team, and the coach answered with a flippant "Archie Who?" 

Manning went on to beat the snot out of that coach's team, and a nickname was born.  We had "Archie Who?" bumperstickers and buttons and banners.  We had "Archie Manning Day" in Drew.  We gave him a parade.  I think we gave him a convertible.  It was a big, big deal. 

Here's the "Archie Who?" song, which has finally made it onto YouTube:

According to Drew Mississippi Mythology, Archie Manning didn't miss a Sunday at Drew Baptist Church a single time, from the day he entered the nursery until the day he left for Ole Miss. Among Southern Baptists, that gave Archie the same status that Sandy Koufax achieved among the Jews for not pitching on Yom Kippur. Archie was greatness.

Unfortunately, Archie was drafted by a new team.  The New Orleans Saints.  Lord have mercy, they had some bad years.  Archie Manning spent a lot of his career getting sacked. 

Drew Mississippi Mythology says that if Archie had been drafted by The Dallas Cowboys and Roger Staubach had been drafted by the lowly New Orleans Saints, Manning and Staubach would have had reversed careers.  Manning would have gone to all those Super Bowls, and Staubach would have been Jack Youngblood's tackling dummy. 
Deep down in our hearts, we knew it to be true.  Archie was greatness.  If only Archie could have gotten on with The Dallas Cowboys....

About 15 years ago, Roger Staubach's real estate company was trying to work a deal with my old employer, Barnes & Noble.  Some of us got invited to a pre-game party at Mr. Staubach's home, and then got to go to a game in his suite at the old Cowboys stadium. 

During the pregame party, Staubach brought up the names of some of the other quarterbacks of his era, and I HEARD ROGER STAUBACH SAY THIS SENTENCE WITH HIS VERY OWN MOUTH:

"You know, there are a lot of people who think that if Archie and I had been drafted by opposite teams, we would have had opposite careers.  And they might be right."

I heard Roger Staubach say that sentence.  I heard it with my own ears.  I heard him say it.


TarrantLibertyGuy said...

I met a woman who went to his house and got to hold his Heisman. He let her. He handed it to her. I don't know what would be better, to hold Captain Comeback's Heisman or the Holy Grail. If there is a difference.

Nick Rowe said...

What a great story.

It's a truism, but a great quarterback is nothing without a solid front line to protect him, rushers to carry the ball, and receivers who can catch whatever he throws, both the well and the badly tossed balls.

If the defense can't hold off the opponents, a good quarterback can gain yardage and score a lot of points and still lose games. Football is, in my mind, the ultimate team sport.

You've got two 300 pound men trying to push two other 300 pound men 8 inches apart so a 220 pound man can run through that small gap at almost 20 mph. It's a sport of giants.

Diane Shurden Strehle said...

Allen, Murray Kellum, a cousin of mine from Jackson, Ms., wrote and sang this song. Murray also wrote for Alabama years later before he was killed in a plane crash. I believe Murray was about l9 when he cut this record.
Diane Shurden Strehle

I'm Mad As Hell and I'm . . . said...

Archie did not win the Heisman. He was a great quarterback in high school, college and at New Orleans. I was born in Drew and later moved to Batesville where we played him in all sports. I then went to Southern Miss and saw him play both baseball and football against us for several years. Murry Kellum's Dad and mine played in a band and I often visited his family in a suburb of Jackson. My grandmother was a Shurden like Diane above. I hunted Easter eggs in Archie's front yard in the first grade.

Anonymous said...

Former Tennessee and NFL linebacker Steve Kiner was the source for the "Archie Who?" comment.

Tara said...

Do you know where I can find an Archie Who button? I am looking for one for a unique Christmas gift for a big Archie Manning fan!