In an age where we’re constantly barraged by stories of professional athletes behaving badly, Peyton and Eli Manning stand as notable exceptions.
Both are members of Louisiana’s first family of football, the Mannings. The family is led by matriarch Olivia Manning – a woman quick to note that her biggest and happiest achievement is raising her children.
A native of Philadelphia, Mississippi, Olivia Williams, as she was once known, attended Ole Miss where she earned a bachelor’s degree in elementary education. It was during that time that she met a young man named Archie.
Then there was the age-old love story: college quarterback falls for the homecoming queen.
Only after college, this lucky quarterback was drafted to the Saints. The Mannings moved into their first apartment as a married couple in Metairie.
Soon Manning found herself the mother of three boys. The eldest, Cooper, lives in New Orleans and works as an energy broker with the firm Howard Weill. Then came Peyton, currently the quarterback for the Denver Broncos. A five-time league MVP, he’s ranked among the greatest quarterbacks of all time. The youngest is Eli, quarterback for the New York Giants; he currently holds the record for most fourth-quarter touchdown passes in the NFL.
Long before the Super Bowl rings and huge contracts though, the Manning boys attended Isidore Newman School. As an involved parent, Manning was a frequent school volunteer.
Over the years she has continued to give back to organizations, including the Junior League, the Red Cross and the American Heart Association. She also co-chaired the Longue Vue House & Gardens fundraiser “Sentimental Journeys” in 1999 and was the 2013 chair of the Audubon Zoo’s annual “Whitney Zoo-to-Do.”
Manning is thrilled that her children have followed her example.
“I’m really proud of the boys – of the ways that they have found ways to give back,” she says, noting both Peyton and Eli’s foundations, as well as the work Cooper and his wife have done locally to support Academy of the Sacred Heart.
Football has always been a part of Manning’s life – her father also played for Ole Miss – but she says that, as a mother, it has also been a source of almost non-stop stress.
“I’m just as nervous about them in the NFL as I was when they were in high school,” she says. “I’m still always looking to make sure they get up way before I worry if the pass was complete.”
Manning’s sideline worrying is likely far from over.
“I now have grandsons at Newman,” she says. “It feels like starting over again. It’s like, ‘Here I go again!’”
mentor: Probably my mother. I just think about the way she raised her children, all four of us. She always had such a calm demeanor and put lots of trust in us. Now, when I look back, I realize that I tried to be that same kind of mother to my boys.
defining moment: When I married Archie. I knew that was the beginning of football for us. That definitely has defined our life.
advice for young women: I’m not much on giving advice, but I’d say if you’re a mother, be a part of your children’s lives in every way you can because it goes by so quickly. Make sure to find lots of enjoyment through friends and family. Live life to the fullest.
goals: Right now I’m trying to keep up with technology. I feel like I just mastered my iPhone and then the next thing comes out. I try to stay savvy so that I can keep up with my grandchildren.
favorite thing abut what I do: Right now it’s just about enjoying my family. I have three grandchildren in town and four out of town. We love exploring New Orleans when they visit or going to visit them.