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Could the next Manning QB be the best? Arch Manning is prepared for the hype

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NEW ORLEANS — Arch Manning went through pregame drills against visiting Berkeley Prep in the shadow of a sign honoring Isidore Newman’s No. 18, permanently retired in recognition of three brothers: Cooper, Peyton and Eli.

The next generation of Manning quarterbacks is a 17-year-old junior with offers to play everywhere, including top-ranked Georgia, and not long before kickoff coach Kirby Smart shuffled through the front gates and onto Newman’s turf field to see and be seen by the jewel of the 2023 recruiting cycle.

Broadcast on ESPNU as part of the network’s high school showcase of games, the loss to Berkeley Prep served as the national introduction to a quarterback with the ability and the last name to be the most ballyhooed prospect in modern recruiting history.

It's not just that he's a five-star passer ranked as the best overall player in his class; he is, after all, a Manning, with all that entails.

Talent, hype, pressure. Scholarship offers from every major power in college football. The biggest names in coaching arriving early to his games, stalking the sidelines to catch his eye and staying to the final whistle. The burden of the family legacy as he follows in the footsteps of his grandfather, Archie; his father, Cooper, a star receiver at Newman; and his uncles, Peyton and Eli, winners of four combined Super Bowls.

Maybe the only thing brighter than Arch Manning’s future is the spotlight that will place him at the center of attention for every step of his football career.

“There’s a lot of pressure on the outside but I think we’ve been able to build a nice, good environment where he can continue to grow,” said Newman coach Nelson Stewart.

Yet the overwhelming sense of external weight on this once-in-a-generation type of prospect seems lost on Arch and the immediate and broader Manning family. Pressure? While acknowledging the enormous expectations, those around the Newman program and those close to the family are in agreement: Arch just keeps being Arch.

“I think it’s probably a healthy combination of a lot of good factors,” said Newman athletics director Patrick Summerour. “Arch should get a lot of credit for just being who he is. He’s humble. He’s selfless with his teammates. He doesn’t have to be that way. That’s how he chooses to live. That’s a credit to him, that’s a credit to his family, that’s a credit to the way he’s been raised.”

Arch Manning is trying to accomplish what his father and uncles couldn't at Isidore Newman - win a state championship.
Arch Manning is trying to accomplish what his father and uncles couldn't at Isidore Newman - win a state championship.

Power Five schools scramble for rare five-star recruiting gem

The hype stems from his bloodlines, arm talent and football smarts — factors that in combination have made Arch a prime target for Georgia, Texas, Alabama, Clemson, Tennessee and Ole Miss, among other elite programs in the Football Bowl Subdivision.

He has “one-of-a-kind quarterback pedigree,” according to 247Sports.com, and while facing a lower caliber of competition at Newman his “feel for the game and pedigree will translate regardless.”

His recruitment goes through Stewart, who has known the family for decades and runs point — some might say interference — for programs and coaches trying to get Arch on campus for unofficial visits before he makes his verbal commitment, which is expected by next spring or early summer.

"I don’t love being out of town every weekend, not being with the boys," Arch said. "But it’s been fun getting to go see places and build some connections."

Two leaders have emerged as of now, according to individuals familiar with Arch's recruitment: Georgia and Texas. Including the Longhorns, who are set to join the conference within the next four years, most of the schools on his larger shortlist play in the SEC.

Arch Manning watches Georgia play South Carolina with his parents, Cooper and Ellen.
Arch Manning watches Georgia play South Carolina with his parents, Cooper and Ellen.

Coaches love his physical ability and his football IQ, Stewart said. One coach from a Power Five school was so struck by Arch's aptitude and attitude that he had to ask: Is he really that way? Yes, he is, Stewart replied.

Another Power Five coach detailed how Arch filled pages taking notes while meeting with the offensive coaching staff, relaying how two weeks after the meeting he was able to rattle off protection schemes from the team's playbook.

"Everyone has said he’s a rarity," Stewart said. "I think the fact that he doesn’t tweet offers — you know, he’s never ‘blessed and humbled’ to receive anything. Every person has said, one, I think that’s so refreshing, it’s such a refreshing recruitment to see a kid that way. And I think the other thing is just his recall. He really has a great understanding of football and he has a great memory."

MORE: Arch Manning trying to do at Newman what his father, uncles couldn't - win a state title

WHERE WILL HE GO? Breaking down where No. 1 recruit Arch Manning could attend college

OPINION: Why Clemson needs Arch Manning more than quarterback's other potential suitors

Mannings are first family of football

While still representing an infinitesimal percentage of prospects in any given year, there are typically three or more five-star quarterbacks in every recruiting cycle. The expectations heaped on that rare recruiting distinction are profound: To be great, not just very good, and to be so from the very start.

To combine five-star status with the Manning name is to face those expectations in duplicate or triplicate, especially with Arch starring at the same school as his father and uncles against the backdrop of the family’s enormous popularity in the city.

“It’s awesome having a dad and two uncles who played here,” Arch said. “A lot of the same people are in the community, whether teachers or coaches, so it’s just cool getting to be here, getting to be at home.”

The first family of football is also among the first families of New Orleans. Archie was introduced to the city in the 1970 Sugar Bowl, an Ole Miss upset of Arkansas, and then spent a decade as the bright spot on a run of mediocre-or-worse teams with the New Orleans Saints. Archie and his wife, Olivia, still reside in the city’s well-heeled Uptown neighborhood.

Georgia fans in the student section try to help recruit Arch Manning during the second half against South Carolina.
Georgia fans in the student section try to help recruit Arch Manning during the second half against South Carolina.

Cooper, 47, was set to enroll at Ole Miss before being diagnosed with spinal stenosis, ending his playing career. He overlapped as a senior at Newman with Peyton, 45, who played at Tennessee. Eli, 40, was a three-year starter at Ole Miss and holds the school’s career records for passing yards and touchdowns.

Even as the second generation left the area for college — Peyton and Eli never gave much thought to local LSU, and Arch hasn't either — the Manning family occupies a special place among New Orleanians, said Bob Remy, a local sports historian and the longtime statistician for the Saints and the city’s multiple NBA franchises.

“You can’t say enough good things about these people,” Remy said. “First and foremost, we’re Saints fans. But I’ve been around a long time. You never hear anybody say a bad word about any of these people. It’s been a treasure to the city.”

That Arch has remained humble amid the hype, according to those around him, may be a result of growing up in this environment. Playing quarterback wasn’t foisted upon Arch but an unplanned development; he picked up a football as a young kid and began throwing crisp spirals, so he became a quarterback as early as his flag-football games as a six-year-old.

There are no trophies in his room. Arch’s family was watching local news one evening when he appeared on the screen, interviewed for being named the high school player of the week; they had no idea he’d won the recognition, since Arch didn’t tell anyone. He defers leadership roles in the Newman locker room to upperclassmen, since seniors hold cachet at the elite private school.

“For Peyton, Eli and Cooper, their childhood was their normal. And now Arch’s childhood is his normal,” said former NFL quarterback Jeff Kemp, whose father, Jack, starred for the Buffalo Bills before a long career in politics.

“I’m guessing that there’s enough balance in the way they handle it that this kid isn’t being flattered or pushed. And pressure? He’s used to attention. He’s always been a Manning.”

Manning wasn't forced onto football path

That Arch has not been swallowed by the hype can be attributed in part to the insulated ecosystem at Newman, where far more students end up going to Ivy League schools than playing on Saturdays in the SEC.

“He’s not in college yet, so I think there’s a lot of growing left,” said Stewart. “We’ve got to let him keep growing.”

Walking the same path as the previous two generations of the Manning family would deflate any ballooning ego. But there is very little focus on football in the interactions between grandfather and grandson, uncles and nephew.

Archie is more likely to give advice on the mundane — on what coat and tie to wear to a school event, for example — than on how to handle the blitz.

Peyton has been to one of Arch’s games at Newman. Eli has been to none. They will throw the football when the family gets together: Arch took pointers from Eli a few years ago and from Peyton during a trip to Denver this past summer, when he also threw in front of former Indianapolis Colts quarterback coach Clyde Christensen.

Arch Manning and his dad, Cooper, have attended several college football games this season during the recruiting process. Cooper's career was cut short when he was diagnosed with spinal stenosis.
Arch Manning and his dad, Cooper, have attended several college football games this season during the recruiting process. Cooper's career was cut short when he was diagnosed with spinal stenosis.

But Arch was not built or made, let alone forced toward football, say those familiar with his development. His growth into an elite quarterback prospect has instead been organic if still predictable, given the family tradition.

There was a feeling he’d follow in those footsteps “the second you saw him throw a football,” Stewart said. “Even when the ball was bigger than him, he had that little snap in P.E. class. I always had an eye on him.”

From childhood through adolescence, Arch would bring a football and cleats on family trips. Stuck in a long layover at the Miami airport during winter break as a sixth grader, Arch and Cooper decided to play catch between gates, starting 10 yards apart.

Ten yards became 30. Ropes. Spirals. Cooper began adding in the tail end of routes — little jukes to mimic the final move of an out route, a post route. Someone has to notice, Cooper thought. Someone has to come by and ask: Wow, is this your son?

No one said anything. The ball went back into the bag. The family got onto their flight and went home. Arch was just a kid playing catch with his dad. That he's a Manning has always been part of the story but is not the story itself.

“Arch always had that great belief,” said Stewart. “He just doesn’t get caught up in things that don’t matter. I think he just focuses on what’s important.”

Follow colleges reporter Paul Myerberg on Twitter @PaulMyerberg

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Arch Manning may be the family's best QB. Move over, Peyton and Eli.