When Georgia hosted South Carolina on Sep. 18, there were 92,746 fans at Sanford Stadium, but there was no question who the guest of honor was. If you didn’t know who was visiting that day, a row of Georgia students gave it away.
Thirteen red-painted, red-wigged Bulldogs fans spelled out ‘WE WANT ARCH!’ in the front row of the student section.
The object of their affection? A five-star New Orleans quarterback named Arch Manning.
Yes, he’s related to THOSE Mannings. And yes, he appears to be ready to be the third generation of Manning QBs to be a star in major college football and beyond.
“Arch was impressed by that,” Eli Manning said of Arch’s welcome to Georgia on the Pat McAfee Show.
The next stop on his fall tour will be in Tuscaloosa for Saturday’s Alabama-Ole Miss game. You can bet the CBS cameras will find him at some point during the afternoon.
But before you think Arch, the No. 1 ranked player in the class of 2023 according to 247Sports, is about to get caught up in the mega-hype that will surround his recruitment, think again.
His team, Isidore Newman, opened its season the night before his visit to Georgia with a victory. Saturday morning, he was back at the high school for a film session, then participated in a team weight-lifting session before flying to Athens.
“A lot of kids could easily say, ‘I’m going out of town,’ and we’d be fine with that,” Isidore Newman High School coach Nelson Stewart told SN. “But he is not going to miss a training session. He does not miss a thing. His team comes first.”
Arch is the son of Cooper Manning, the nephew of Peyton and Eli and the grandson of Archie. Peyton, Eli and Archie were all SEC stars who reached the NFL. Eli won two Super Bowl MVPs, while Peyton landed in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Needless to say, Arch has faced expectations and notoriety his whole life, and while he doesn’t pretend he’s not part of the Royal Family of quarterbacks, he’s managed to stay relatively even-keeled through his young career.
“He’s such a great kid,” Stewart says. “So grounded. Always around his friends. Just grew up playing and loving football. I’ve seen him since he was six, seven-years-old. He loves sports and loves the game.”
Stewart is the unofficial gatekeeper, for now, of Arch’s recruitment. Cooper and Ellen Manning have tried to filter interviews, coaches visits and recruiting trips through Newman. He realizes the family has put a high level of trust and responsibility in him, and he’s happy to do it.
“I joke sometimes that I’ve got my family, my team, and Arch,” he says. “But he’s such a great kid, great student-athlete. I’ve never really seen anything like (this recruitment), but I just try to keep the focus on him and let people know he’s a great kid.”
Clemson assistant coach Brandon Streeter visited Isidore Newman recently, and Stewart felt compelled to tell him he appreciated seeing he was a full human being rather than just a face on Face-Time.
“He Face-Timed my wife by accident one time, and she knew who he was because she recognized him from all the Face-Time on my phone,” Stewart said.
The schools pursuing Arch are no surprise, and there is no true front-runner at this time. After Saturday’s Alabama game, Manning plans to go to Texas on Oct. 16, then Ole Miss on Oct. 23 and Clemson on Oct. 30. It figures to be a circus until he commits, with morses of information dissected and coaches doing anything to rise to the top. Ole Miss coach Lane Kiffin currently follows two people on Instagram, his Heisman Trophy-contending quarterback Matt Corral, and Arch Manning.
“There are a lot of eyeballs on him, obviously, more than most recruits,” says Rivals recruiting analyst Sam Spiegelman, who has covered Manning’s career. “These are at least his second visits to all these schools. He picked them for a reason and it should be telling as far as where he eventually ends up.”
As busy as he will be on Saturdays, Friday nights will still be the No. 1 priority for Arch.
“He’s such a great teammate,” Stewart says. “He is alway trying to make sure it is about the team. He is a junior captain, which is only about the third time that has happened in my time here. It is a tremendous honor.”
Quarterbacks usually commit early, so the college football world may know something as early as late fall or over the winter. Arch won’t likely sign until December of 2022.
“It is an experience and he is going to go through the process and pick what is right for him,” Stewart says.”He doesn’t have a timetable or anything like that. He says, when he knows, he knows. That could be the spring, the summer. I don’t think it is going to come down to three hats on the table or anything like that.”
Spiegleman agrees that the hype has been relatively contained for growing up in a football-obsessed, recruiting-obsessed region of the country.
“They have tried to be methodical about the process, trying to be ‘old school’, so to speak,” he says. “He’s handled it really well. He takes everything in stride, and he’s been strategic about when he is taking these visits. He puts his high school team first.”
ESPN has yet to announce the rest of its high school schedule for 2021, but it is more than likely Isidore Newman will be featured at some point like it was in 2020. Fans will then get another up close look at the phenom who has some speed to go along with the Manning intangibles.
“He’s really been pushing the ball downfield this season,” Stewart says. “That is noticeable. And he’s gotten faster. He can make plays with his legs. He has been playing well so far, no doubt about it.”