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‘Memories, pressed between the pages of my mind’… Rebel Fans Offer Their Memories of Eli Manning’s Storied Ole Miss Career

‘Memories, pressed between the pages of my mind’… Rebel Fans Offer Their Memories of Eli Manning’s Storied Ole Miss Career

“Memories, pressed between the pages of my mind…Memories, sweetened through the ages just like wine…” – Elvis Presley 

OXFORD, Miss. — Today, if you’re a Rebel fan, you’re likely celebrating the memory and the legacy of former Ole Miss quarterback Eli Manning, and you’ll be watching with pride as his No. 10 jersey is retired at halftime of today’s game against LSU.

Eli is just the third player in Ole Miss football history to have his number retired, joining his father Archie Manning (18) and Chucky Mullins (38).

“Quiet thought come floating down…and settle softly to the ground”

What a glorious day it was when Eli committed to the Red and Blue. Throughout his career in Oxford, Manning, a four-year letterman for the Rebels from 2000-03, excelled. He won the 2003 Maxwell Award, an honor given to the best all-around player in college football.

The New Orleans, Louisiana, native set or tied 47 Ole Miss single‑game, season and career records during his time in Oxford.

Manning became the highest pick in program history when he was selected No. 1 in the 2004 NFL Draft. His father, Archie Manning, was the No. 2 overall pick of the New Orleans Saints in 1971 after a historic career with the Rebels from 1968-70.

Eli, who finished third in the 2003 Heisman Trophy ballot following his senior season, finished his illustrious Ole Miss career with a school-record 10,119 career passing yards and 81 career TD passes. He also set new Ole Miss career records for completions (829) and passing attempts (1,363), and both marks ranked fourth on the SEC career lists.

Eli solidified his place in Ole Miss history with a historic senior campaign in 2003. Besides the Maxwell Award, he won the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award and earned numerous All-America honors after throwing for 3,600 yards and 29 TDs. He earned SEC Offensive Player of the Year, helping lead the Rebels to a 10-3 record and a win over Oklahoma State in the 2004 Cotton Bowl.

“Like golden autumn leaves around my feet, I touched them and they burst apart with sweet memories….”

As quarterback of the New York Giants, Manning was named to four Pro Bowls and was a two-time Super Bowl champion and two-time Super Bowl MVP.

Watching his jersey retired today is going to be surreal for many of us who can hardly believe time has passed so quickly since Eli was on the field leading the Rebels to so much success. 

“Memories, pressed between the pages of my mind…”

We asked Rebel fans who so love Eli Manning what their memories are of him and thoughts they have on his jersey retirement today. Thank you to all who shared with us. We appreciate you! 

Eli Manning Memories from Ole Miss fans

David Bariola

“Wow! I have so many memories of Eli’s time at OM. But the one memory that sticks out to me is the Bama game in 2001. My Dad (who’s a huge Bama fan) and I made the drive to see the game. The weather was bad that day and we discussed just watching the game from home. Jefferson Pilot Sports was carrying the game, and the rain was so bad I felt we’d never get to Oxford. But we made the journey.

“Tyler Watts was the QB that day for the Tide and he was a dangerous passer and was great at running the option. As a Rebel fan, beating Alabama did not happen that often. The Rebels had a good team. I believe we were 3-1 and Bama was 3-2 coming into this game. However, the rainy conditions I felt would hurt our passing game. But we had #10 and some great skill players. Chris Collins, Doug Ziegler, and Jason Armstead were prominent targets for Eli. 

“The rain and soggy conditions helped Bama’s defense because it forced Eli to throw quick passes. Joe Gunn picked up the slack at RB. He had a great first half. The Rebel defense played great the first 30 minutes. Watts had some great long runs, but the Reb defense played solid football.

Eli led the Rebels to victory over Alabama in 2001. (Photo credit: Ole Miss Athletics)

I think Eli passed for 130 yards in the first half. From the stands, it looked as if the conditions were playing ‘mind games’ with #10 and the Rebel offense. In the second half, Bama jumped on us 24-14. For me, I felt like ‘here we go again.’ But Eli remained cool under pressure and did not panic. His patience paid off late in the 3rd quarter. Eli got hot throwing the football and plays opened up for us.

“If I can remember correctly, Eli called his own number on a 4th and 1 and picked up a first down. He had a Joe Montana-like afternoon. He let the game come to him, instead of forcing passes.

“The Rebel defense, led by Eddie Strong and Lanier Goethie played inspired football. Charles Stackhouse scored a TD cutting the Bama lead to 3. The score was 24-21 and the Rebel defense forced Bama to punt late in the 4th quarter.

“Eli and the Rebels had one last drive in them for the lead and to win the game. Joe Gunn capped off an impressive performance with the game-winning touchdown. It was a great win for the Rebel fans that packed the Vaught on that nasty day.

“For me, I’ll always remember this game because it was a great experience with my dad. He played against Archie in high school, and I loved hearing those stories. Looking back at that experience, I think that pushed me to coach football like my dad. Now whenever I see Eli, I think of that day.”

Heather Hatcher

“The Eli Manning memory that stands out the most to me is the 2003 Egg Bowl. I had just married a State fan and was convinced to go to Starkville for the game with him and some of his family. 

“It came a monsoon during the game. We were all completely drenched, and as Ole Miss pulled away for the shutout, my husband was ready to leave. But knowing it was going to be Eli’s final Egg Bowl, along with the excitement of a Rebel 31-0 victory in Starkville, I refused to leave the stadium until I got to do the ‘we just beat the hell outta you’ chant at the end. 

“I may have also done it most of the way home too….that was the last Egg Bowl my husband and I have watched together because now we just go to separate places to cheer on our own teams and don’t speak of it in order to stay married. 

“However, he did allow me to name our son Eli so he’s a not so secretive Manning fan for sure.”

Bill Dyer

“I graduated from Ole Miss in 1992. I remember a couple of years later we missed out on Peyton Manning and it was devastating! How could Archie Manning’s son go to Tennessee? When Eli committed to Ole Miss and became the starting QB as a sophomore, it was like everything was right again in the (college football) world.

“I was always impressed with the cool and calm manner with which Eli played, both in college and as a pro. He would show some emotion, but he was always cool under pressure. My favorite game was his last one as a Rebel – the 2004 Cotton Bowl. I think he threw for 260 yards in the game and it was our first 10-win season in over 30 years! Plus it was our first Cotton Bowl win since 1956. Eli made Ole Miss football relevant again.

Eli Manning throws a pass in the 2004 Cotton Bowl. (Photo courtesy of Ole Miss Athletics)

“Eli was never a consolation prize for not getting Peyton. He was his own player…his own Manning…and he is arguably the best player ever to wear an Ole Miss uniform. He took on the pressure and the burden of being Archie Manning’s son, playing the same position at his dad’s alma mater, with grace and confidence. The honor of retiring his #10 is well-deserved. And, in my opinion, he belongs in the NFL Hall of Fame for his career with the Giants.”

Josh Loper

“One of the reasons I went to Ole Miss was because I would be in the same class as Eli Manning. The hype was huge. I knew this was the time to be an Ole Miss Rebel!  I recently got to look at a copy of the Ole Miss yearbook from my freshman year and I should have been on the same page as Eli but he skipped picture day. He owes me one for that!

“Even though we lost the game, my favorite Eli memory was the first time he was brought in during the Music City Bowl versus West Virginia. 

“The game was way out of hand and Ole Miss wasn’t going to win.  In comes Eli.  Score is 49-16.  Out of nowhere, Eli turns on Superman mode and is unstoppable. He leads the team to three 4th-quarter touchdowns and the game ends a lot more respectable with a final score of 49-38. 

“I knew at that moment that Ole Miss football was going to be something to really watch for the next few years. Eli did not disappoint and I’m so happy to see his number retired this weekend. He was my generation’s Ole Miss superstar.

Caleb Salers

“Eli Manning was the first player to make me fall in love with both the game of football and Ole Miss athletics as a whole. He literally gave the Rebels a chance in each game through his talent and determination to win.

“My first football jersey was a No. 10 Ole Miss one, which we all know is for Eli. I also remember begging my Dad to buy me an Eli Manning New York Giants jersey for Christmas as a child. Words cannot describe how much he inspired me to strive to be a winner in every aspect of life. Eli Manning, to me, is much greater than the two-time Super Bowl MVP and Ole Miss legend. He is the one who I looked up to as a motivator to be the best I could possibly be.”

Landon Barnhill

“Having the famous Number 10 retired is a big deal to almost any Ole Miss Sports fan. Eli has done so many great things for the University of Mississippi. Without Eli Manning and the Manning family, in general, Ole Miss football would not be what it is today. Eli Manning is a perfect representation of what it means to be an Ole Miss Rebel.”

Nicole Bateman

“My daughter-in-law, Allison Bateman, majored in voice at Ole Miss and sang in the choir at First Presbyterian as a student. She was in the choir for one of his children’s baptisms.”

Brant Lowery

“Being born in 2000, I don’t remember Eli playing. But that didn’t stop me from learning everything he did for Ole Miss. I’ve heard countless stories/memories about what the Manning Family means to this University. I will always remember the stories my late grandfather would tell me while sitting in the Grove before game time. Being in Oxford this weekend will just put the icing on the cake for me, and I know my grandfather will be watching! He wouldn’t have missed this for anything!”

Brooke Jones Edwards

“Here are a few of my memories of Eli:

1) We started at Ole Miss together (although we never met), but he’ll ALWAYS be my all time favorite because of that. #ClassOf99

2) The Arkansas 7 OT game. I scared my 9-month-old son to death because I was yelling so loud at the TV. He started crying cause he thought I was yelling at him.

3) The Music City Bowl where Eli came in in the second half in relief of Ro and almost led a full-fledged Rebel COMEBACK!!!!”

Chris Muller

“My favorite Eli memories include the 2002 upset of No. 6 Florida in Oxford and the 2004 Cotton Bowl where we upset Oklahoma State. That was my first bowl game experience, and having it 30 minutes from my home made it even more special. 

Funniest Eli story: When he ran afoul of campus authorities, reportedly the authorities asked Eli what Archie would think.  Eli deadpanned back, ‘Archie who?’

Congrats to Eli for representing Ole Miss so well throughout the years!”

Jonathan Eric Ferguson (Landshark Nation)

“Definitely my first memory was waiting for his life announcement on SportsCenter. I followed his high school numbers in magazines and newspapers. Most everyone in Florida (where I lived) was telling me ‘he’s never going to Ole Miss.’”

Emily Evans Holly

“I remember how happy my dad was that he was at Ole Miss for Archie’s tenure, and I was there for three of Eli’s four years. And I remember being at the Music City Bowl when Eli nearly led a comeback and then years later when we won the Cotton Bowl. It felt like we were finally relevant again.”

“Memories, memories, sweet memories….”

Ole Miss and LSU kick off at 2:30 p.m. (CT) today in Vaught-Hemingway. Eli’s No. 10 will be retired during halftime. Thank you, again, to these wonderful Ole Miss fans for giving us their memories of Eli.

And thank you, of course, to Eli Manning and the Manning family for giving us such sweet memories.

Here’s Elvis Presley singing ‘Memories.’

Evelyn Van Pelt

Evelyn Van Pelt

Evelyn has covered sports for over two decades, beginning her journalism career as a sports writer for a newspaper in Austin, Texas. She attended Texas A&M and majored in English. Evelyn’s love for Ole Miss began when her daughter Katie attended the university on a volleyball scholarship. Evelyn created the Rebel Walk in 2013 and has served as publisher and managing editor since its inception.

About The Author

Evelyn Van Pelt

Evelyn has covered sports for over two decades, beginning her journalism career as a sports writer for a newspaper in Austin, Texas. She attended Texas A&M and majored in English. Evelyn's love for Ole Miss began when her daughter Katie attended the university on a volleyball scholarship. Evelyn created the Rebel Walk in 2013 and has served as publisher and managing editor since its inception.

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