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Thankful for Manning magic

The last time the Ole Miss Rebels were playing in the Sugar Bowl in New Orleans, I was a 6-year-old living in northern California cheering for the “red head” from Drew, Mississippi.

Archie Manning was my boyhood hero because he hailed from the same hometown as my mother.

That automatically made me an Ole Miss football fan, and later a fan of the New Orleans Saints when Manning quarterbacked the hapless team in the ’70s.

On that New Year’s Day in 1970, I remember the Rebels battling the powerful Arkansas Razorbacks out of the old Southwest Conference and Archie having a tremendous day at the old Tulane Stadium. Manning led the Rebels to a thrilling 27-22 upset win over the Razorbacks to cement his legendary status at Ole Miss.

Archie threw for 273 yards and a TD and ran for another score in that 27-22 win over the No. 3 team in the nation.

In the end, the Rebels had upset their fourth top 10 opponent of the season to finish 8-3.

Fast-forward 45 long years later and the Rebels are back in the Sugar Bowl set to take on Oklahoma State on New Year’s Day. And I don’t believe anyone can be more excited about Ole Miss returning to New Orleans than Manning.

In a way, Ole Miss returning to the Sugar Bowl is a culmination of efforts by Manning. After all, Manning was one of those who recommended Ole Miss hire head coach Hugh Freeze four years ago.

I’m pretty sure he saw a lot more in Freeze than some others on the selection committee.

In all honesty, I certainly didn’t see Freeze being the answer to the woes that troubled Ole Miss or the head coach who would bring them to consecutive New Year’s Day bowl games.

But that’s the magic of Manning. He sees something in others that perhaps they don’t see in themselves. He raised three boys that are proven winners and during his playing days was able to make those around him play much better than perhaps they were capable, with the exception of several losing years in New Orleans. Manning was magical, but not a miracle worker.

And while I rooted for Manning as a kid because he was a guy from Mississippi, I cheer for him now because he was key to bringing back a winner to his alma mater. And for that, I thank him.

Rob Sigler is the managing editor of the Oxford EAGLE. Contact him at rob.sigler@oxfordeagle.com.