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Doug Barber: Archie Manning shares memories at Gulfport Gridiron Club

TIM ISBELL/SUN HERALD 
 Doug Barber
TIM ISBELL/SUN HERALD Doug Barber SUN HERALD

Monday night was special at the Gulfport Gridiron Club.

Archie Manning, who wore No. 18 at Ole Miss and No. 8 with the New Orleans Saints, shared plenty of short stories about his life then and now before a huge crowd at the Great Southern Club.

For younger fans, he is probably better known as the father of Peyton Manning and Eli Manning. And as one of the original members of the college playoff committee.

For slightly older fans, he sparkled as Ole Miss' quarterback from 1968-70 and then was the Saints's No. 1 draft choice in 1971 and became a fans' favorite when he gave it his all during the years when the franchise struggled before the advent of free agency.

This writer remembers seeing him play at Ole Miss, including his epic junior year in which Ole Miss knocked off four Top 10 teams and finished No. 8 in the nation.

This writer also got to cover Archie with the Saints when he probably had his most high-powered offense in 1978 and 1979 (with guys like Henry Childs, Chuck Muncie, Wes Chandler and Conrad Dobler), and just two years ago - while covering one of the pro-ams of the Mississippi Gulf Resort Classic at Fallen Oak - was able to interview him again.

One of the stories Archie shared with the Gulfport Gridiron Club was a visit to Eli's house in Oxford during the offseason. After letting a youngster into Eli's house to get an autographed football, later the child told his dad that he got Eli's autograph and the autograph of some old guy.

I guess glory can be fleeting.

When asked about the toughest player he played against in the NFL, he immediately mentioned famous Chicago Bears linebacker Dick Butkus. During Archie's rookie year in 1971, the Saints were preparing their gameplan against the Bears.

Butkus played middle linebacker and was a headhunter. One of plays in the gameplan was a slant across the middle, which would be run by either of his wideouts - Al Dodd or Danny Abramowicz. Before the game, though, Dodd decided to let Archie know what he thought of that idea. "If you call the slant, I won't run it.''

And Archie decided he wouldn't call it.

Most fans in south Mississippi -- and pro fans generally -- identify No. 4 as the gunslinger - Brett Favre from Southern Miss. Brett wore that number with the Packers, Jets and Vikings. But Archie wore that number with the Minnesota Vikings before Brett. After being traded from the Houston Oilers to the Vikings in the early 80s, many people wondered if Archie would wear No. 8 up there. But a punter already had that number. So Archie settled on No. 4. At least, 25 years before Brett would do so.

Yes, it was quite an evening at the Gulfport Gridiron Club and one that won't be forgotten.

Doug Barber, former Sun Herald sports editor, can be reached at sports@sunherald.com.

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