We’ve all heard of Peyton and Eli Manning (If you haven’t, you must be a hermit living in a cave somewhere. And if that’s true and you’re reading this, you must have some AMAZING WiFi.), but what about their eldest brother Cooper?
In an upcoming documentary, The Book of Manning, director Rory Karpf wanted to show the world the football talent of Archie Manning. During a conference call, Archie said, “Oh, the years fly by, that’s just natural. You know, if it wasn’t for Peyton and Eli coming along, nobody would know who I was. Maybe a few people in Mississippi, a few old people. I never worry much about that. I always had kind of a philosophy, I really enjoyed playing. Gosh, I loved playing.”
We also get a glimpse of the lives of the Manning family, also known as the first family of football. We see home videos and hear from many people, including father Archie, mother Olivia, Peyton, Eli, and the brother we know the least about, Cooper.
Cooper was also quite the football player himself. As an All-State High School wide receiver, many thought he would be on his way to the NFL, but a spinal condition ended his football career. Cooper’s condition, spinal stenosis, and the end of his football days isn’t something he talks about often. “Historically I haven’t really talked about that a lot. Rory caught me on a weak day. We had talked for a long time during that interview session and he got to me a little bit. I’ve always tried to downplay the whole surgery and injury and just wanted to get back to normal. This was the one time I guess you got the full scoop,” said Cooper.
Though his condition may have ended one dream, it hasn’t bothered the eldest Manning. Cooper is a partner in a New Orleans energy investment firm, and enjoys watching his brother’s play on Sundays. Cooper said, “I’m just a proud brother and I just adore watching them play football. It’s far less about me and is more about me being proud of them and loving them and being a part of it. I often wonder what my Sundays are going to be like when they’re no longer playing. I really appreciate the times right now.”
The eldest Manning has a family of his own, a wife and three children to be precise, and he’s taking a cue from his father Archie. “I’m reliving my dad’s life. We’re doing the same things. Pickup games, throwing amazing catches. They’re playing flag football and I’m out there filming it. I’m trying to use my dad’s fatherly advice as a template how not to screw up my kids,” said Cooper.
If Twitter has anything to say about the documentary, Cooper Manning steals the show.
Gotta respect Cooper Manning for opening up about injury that cost football career. Extremely emotional. Reason alone to watch tonight's doc
— Sean Gregory (@seanmgregory) September 24, 2013
Book of Manning should be interesting tonight. I feel bad for Cooper, never played due to a spinal problem before his frosh year at Ole Miss
— Coleman J. Kelly II (@RealColeWorld6) September 24, 2013
I can't wait for the ESPN film on the Manning family and the Cooper situation #ESPNFilms
— Robert Montanez (@Montanez_10) September 24, 2013
Cooper Manning will always be the best Manning
— Justin Sullivan (@Justinsull87) September 25, 2013
Cooper’s role in the documentary is just as important as that of his brother’s, and father Archie is happy about that. Said Archie, “I think one thing I like so much about the documentary is that Cooper’s role in there is equal to Peyton and Eli’s and that’s the way it should be. His story of his athletic career being cut short, and then what he went through with the laminectomy and so forth, I can’t tell you how uplifting it was for our family to see how he handled that. He’s always had a great spirit, but the spirit he had to get through that and the way he dealt with it, his attitude, certainly helped all us get through a tough time.”
It seems the documentary almost didn’t happen though. Cooper told USA TODAY Sports, “Dad initially did some stuff and then decided he just didn’t want to do it and put it on hold. (Filmmaker) Rory (Karp) almost had a heart attack when he found that out, but then my mother was really the driver to get Dad back and say, ‘Let’s pursue it.’ I think she felt that their grandchildren needed to see a side of him and some of the details they wouldn’t see otherwise. My mom is to blame for reigniting the whole project.”
The documentary, which airs Tuesday on ESPN, will give insight into what shaped Archie’s personal and professional life. Some of which are dark times that no person should have to go through, such as Cooper’s spinal condition and Archie’s father’s suicide.
You can watch a clip of the documentary in the video below.