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Column: Cooper Manning doesn’t play, but impacts younger brothers

Staff Columnist

Published: Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Updated: Wednesday, December 4, 2013 21:12

The Manning family is one of the most powerful and well-known football families of their time. Some may even argue that they are the “First Football Family” of America. With Archie Manning as the leader of the pack and his two MVP, Super Bowl-champion sons at his side, more often than not Cooper Manning, the eldest of the three sons, is overlooked.

My dad and I watched “The Book of Manning” over break and seeing Cooper Manning talk about his football experiences changed my perspective. Many people see him as the lame duck older brother who was never able to make it to the pros, but that is probably the farthest from the truth.

Cooper Manning was headed for a shining career at Ole Miss, following in the footsteps of his father. Being the eldest son of the Manning family, he was the leader of the boys especially when it came to football. Cooper Manning first started out like his father and brothers in the quarterback position. He was good, but not great. He was placed at third string quarterback on his high school team.

It wasn’t until sophomore year that Cooper Manning was able to excel on the field. He wanted more playing time so he switched from the quarterback position to wide receiver. Manning worked relentlessly with his father to become a starter on the team. His hard work paid off considering Cooper did not drop a single pass his entire junior year. He was a vital asset to their high school team, but it became more evident when Peyton Manning came to Isadore Newman High School.

Peyton as the starting quarterback throwing to senior Cooper was an unstoppable force. The two worked together to bring their high school to the state semifinals. Cooper Manning was named the teams MVP and All- State wide receiver. He was committed to Ole Miss to play his freshman year, but his football career ended before he could play a collegiate game.

Cooper Manning was diagnosed with spinal stenosis, which is the narrowing of the spinal canal. Spinal stenosis places pressure on the spinal cord and the nerves that control movement throughout the spine. He was told he needed surgery and had to quit football immediately. Manning was fortunate enough to have not been paralyzed due to all of the upper body hits.

Although Manning is fortunate to have been able to prevent any further damage it is always tough to not think about the possibilities if he had continued to play football. If Cooper played at Ole Miss things would have definitely changed for both Peyton and Eli. Peyton may have followed Cooper to Ole Miss. The two brothers would relive their glory days of high school. They would have been the dynamic duo of the team. The Manning family would also have dodged the uproar that ensued after Peyton decided to build on his own legacy. Peyton chose his own path and played at Tennessee instead of overshadowing what could have been for Cooper at Ole Miss. Instead Peyton took the jersey No. 18 that Cooper wore in high school and still wears it today in honor of his brother.

We could sit here for hours and play the ‘what if’ game on Cooper’s football career, but no one would truly ever know what could have happened. All we know is that Cooper’s inability to play shaped the two brothers to become the players they are today, especially for Peyton.

Although Cooper Manning doesn’t fit into the football picture perfectly, in a sense he made a legacy of his own and impacted his brothers’ success. Cooper Manning is a football legend in is own way–he helps tie the Manning family package together.  

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