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Archie Manning

Rubbing Elbows…
They understand the value of association.

Thanksgiving. What a great week to celebrate family and all that it can mean to our success. Sibling rivalry can be rough; it can be outgrown; it can be laughed about years later – and it can be a tremendous motivator towards Greatness.

A few weeks ago, I spent some time catching up with the First Family of Football: Archie Manning and his sons Cooper, Peyton, and Eli. The result of this fascinating visit was an article appearing in the current edition of SUCCESS magazine, as well as a pretty impressive lesson in the power of association.

Archie had no intention of starting a football dynasty when he married Olivia. A highly successful quarterback at Ole Miss, Archie went on to play in the NFL for 13 years, including ten seasons with the New Orleans Saints. As a result, his three sons grew up around football and developed an innate love for the gridiron, even though their dad never pushed them in that direction. The competitive bug must have been in their blood because no matter what activity the family shared, it always became a fight to the finish.

Even shooting hoops in the driveway was an epic battle. “As their father, you don’t want to let them just win, but you do want them to feel like they can compete,” Archie laughed. “When the games got close, we’d have trouble finishing a game to 20 because by the time you get to 18, no one’s going to get a shot off. They’d hack at you to keep you from scoring. A competitive nature is something they all had.”

That nature served all three boys well.

A person is truly great when he is not envious of his rival's success. -UnknownCooper, the oldest Manning son, earned all-state honors as a wide receiver in high school. His senior year he played on the same team as his younger brother, Peyton. The two were a force to be reckoned with on the field; Peyton always looked first to his brother and Cooper almost always managed to get open to catch the pass. Their years of competing against each other had helped them hone their instincts for how to read each other, as well.

Cooper was offered a football scholarship at Ole Miss but during his freshman year, it was discovered that he suffered from a narrowing of the spine, an extremely serious medical condition that would end his athletic career. Instead of mourning his own unfortunate situation, however, Cooper channeled his competitive spirit into his brothers’ efforts, cheering them on and pushing them to keep working.

archie3Peyton went on to play quarterback for the University of Tennessee, where he became the school’s all-time leading passer and set the SEC’s record for career wins, was named First Team All-American and received numerous other prestigiousawards. He was selected as the #1 overall pick in the 1998 draft by the Indianapolis Colts, whom he has led to two Super Bowls. He has also set numerous records and been voted NFL MVP an unprecedented four times.

Eli, younger than Peyton by five years, also had an outstanding college career. As quarterback for Ole Miss, he set or tied 45 separate records, earned numerous national awards, and was the #1 overall draft pick when he went pro; he currently leads the New York Giants. In Super Bowl XLII, Eli led his team to an upset of the Patriots and earned MVP honors for his performance.

Even as professionals, the Manning men check on each other’s teams after each Sunday game and call each other that evening to discuss how they played that day. Cooper, now a partner at an energy investment firm, calls both his brothers during the week and joins them and their father at the Manning Passing Academy, a summer football camp for high school players held each year at Nicholls State College in Thibodaux, LA.

archie4The special bond that these men share is more than just being a family. Bychallenging one another and competing all their lives, they have helped to propel each other forward toward not only outstanding careers with their respective teams or companies but also toward Greatness in terms of their personal lives. Following the example set by their parents, the second generation of Mannings in the spotlight has a reputation for being intelligent, personable, down-to-earth, and charitable to the community. In a lot of ways, no one wanted to be the first Manning labeled as a trouble-maker — their competitive spirit helped keep them on the straight and narrow, both on the field and off.

Tips from the Great Ones

On your own team, is there someone who brings out your competitive nature? Too often in the professional world, the notion of “competition” is a negative image of a rival company or product; but competition can be a positive force, as well. And that competition may well come from within our own family!

We all owe it to ourselves to find those people whose presence inspires us to do more with our talents and opportunities. By developing and maintaining meaningful relationships with people who continually push us to grow, we learn not only how to develop ourselves, but how to celebrate the accomplishments of others. Much like how the Mannings both challenge and cheer one another, so, too, do other Great individuals.

Apply this Characteristic: Invite a friendly rival to lunch or to share a cup of coffee, and talk frankly about what each of you has done to challenge the other. It might surprise you to learn how you have motivated someone else to grow, and your honesty might just lead to an even greater growth as you discuss how your relationship can help to move your team ahead. Who drives you to try harder, study more, prepare better, or reach higher? Whose friendship motivates you to work just a little bit more? If you can point to someoneon your team — or your family — who fills that role, reflect on the recent way his or her presence has helped you raise your own game a notch or two and consider how to use that in the future. If you don’t have such a person in your life, find someone who you can respect and engage with as you work together to improve your performance and stretch your professional muscles.

It is no coincidence that success often runs in families or among tight groups of friends. Greatness surrounds itself with Greatness. It is your responsibility to find – and keep – those people who challenge you to always do better, even as you return the favor to them. Amiable rivalry teaches us to work harder, applaud others, and always keep reaching for our own Greatness.

Do you know a story of true Greatness from your community? I’d love to hear it! Please write to to share it.

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About Don Yaeger

Don Yaeger

Don Yaeger is a Certified Speaking Professional (CSP), longtime Associate Editor for Sports Illustrated, 11-time New York Times best-selling author, leadership expert and executive coach.

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