Archie Manning was my childhood hero.
From his legendary quarterback scrambles at Ole Miss to his days with the New Orleans Saints, I thought the world of Archie. I always hoped to meet him one day. Little did I know, I would meet him in the shower!
Let me explain. First, let’s go back to the 70s when I was in elementary/middle school. Whenever the Saints played, I lived and died with what the team and Archie did every Sunday, which means I died a lot. It wasn’t so much Archie that caused me childhood heartache because he was a remarkable pro quarterback. I remember my dad telling me he read where the running back O.J. Simpson said that if Archie was on a good team, he’d be a Hall of Famer. I used that quote a lot on the recess playgrounds when my friends made fun of me for rooting for the Saints, while they connected themselves to more reliable teams like the Cowboys, Raiders and Steelers.
As I got older, I learned more about the character of Archie and what a good, decent person he was all his life, a real humble guy. Maybe it was because he was from Drew and my grandparents lived in Morgan City (near Sidon, MS), not too far away, that I connected with him, but I just thought the world of him.
Well, as time went on Archie retired and my interest in the Saints waned and then flamed out. I got all grown up and thanks to the journalism/communications programs at Ole Miss, went into broadcasting. I was sports anchor at WTOK TV in Meridian and then three years at a TV station out in Bakersfield, California (home of Buck Owens – Hee Haw!). From there to the CBS station in South Bend where I had to constantly answer this from my Mississippi kinfolk: “Why would you want to cover them there Yankees at Notre Dame!!??”
That’s a story for a different time, but that job led me to be hired by the NBC station in New Orleans to be their sports anchor in 1991. A big reason I took the job was the chance to cover my childhood favorite team, the Saints. They were the ‘Aint’s’ when I was a kid but by 1991 they were the Saints and dang good under Jim Mora, where all four of their linebackers made the Pro Bowl! Archie, long retired, was the popular radio color commentator for the Saints Network. He and Olivia were raising three boys, Cooper, Peyton and Eli. You might have heard of them.
In August of 1991 I went up to LaCrosse, Wisconsin where the Saints held August camp in northern Wisconsin. They did so because Louisiana in August is hotter than six shades of hell. I used to think August in Oxford was tough until my first New Orleans one. Lord have mercy. Well, I was excited because I knew I would meet Archie Manning there. He would always go up for a few days of training camp to size up the team. Training camp was on the campus of the University of Wisconsin-LaCrosse. The Saints put the media up in a dorm room on the college campus, which was weird because I was 30 at the time and felt like I was 18 and back in college. You had all these dorm rooms, and like so many male dorms, a big ol’ shower room with about 14 spickets where guys showered. There were no individual showers, no privacy for showering.
I had heard Archie arrived one evening so I figured I would meet him out on the practice field the next day. I got up early that next morning and sauntered down to the big shower room. I was naked as a jaybird and hadn’t been there two minutes before I looked up and in walked Archie Manning. Always thinking of others, he recognized me and was aware I was the new sports anchor at WDSU so he walked over and introduced himself to me, and welcomed me!
He put his towel up on the hook, turned on his spicket, and we showered right next to each other, as buck naked as we could be. He did most of the talking because I was having ‘processing the situation’ issues, but he could not have been any nicer.
A few minutes went by, he went to shave, and I went back to room 124 or whatever it was there in the dorm, and just sat there for awhile.
“In the history of the world,” I thought, “I must be the only person ever to have met their childhood hero … in the shower!”
After I left the New Orleans market a couple years later, I emceed an event at the College Football Hall of Fame and Archie was the guest speaker. I reminded him of the story and we both got a good chuckle out of it, out of the humor of life.
They don’t come any classier and good hearted than Archie Manning.
Charlie Adams was born in Oxford in 1962. He was a 1980 graduate of Lafayette High School and a 1985 graduate of Ole Miss. Following a television news career, Charlie has focused on delivering inspirational keynotes, seminars and writings. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.