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Sunday, we will watch the NFL’s version of the Egg Bowl: the New York Giants vs. the Dallas Cowboys, Eli Manning vs. Dak Prescott.
Yes, Ole Miss and Mississippi State fans will be emotionally involved. They always are with anything that pits a Rebel against a Bulldog. Sunday’s game matches two of the most popular athletes in the history of their respective schools.
But here’s something all the emotionally invested should know: Eli and Dak are friends. They like each other. And there are few who admire Prescott more than the Manning family.
Said Archie Manning, “It’s like I told a New York writer the other day, in Mississippi we refer to someone like Dak as good people. Dak Prescott is good people.”
Archie Manning well remembers the first time he saw Prescott up close and personal, when Dak took the field at the Manning Passing Academy in Thibodaux, La.
“Dak’s a big ol’ strapping guy, but the first thing I noticed were those humongous calves,” Archie Manning said. “His calves reminded me of Hoyle Granger (a former Mississippi State fullback). Hoyle had the biggest calves I’ve ever seen and Dak has the biggest calves I’ve ever seen on a quarterback.”
Prescott attended the camp once as a high school player and then twice as a counselor while he was still at Mississippi State.
“Dak came down to Thibodaux to learn,” Archie Manning said. “He soaked up everything. He paid attention, on the field and in the film room. And he was serious about we call the payback. What I mean is that we stress with the counselors that their payback is working hard with the kids on the field. Dak did that. He was really into it with the campers and they responded to him.”
Archie Manning says he keeps in touch with Prescott via text messaging, which he tries to do with all the college players who come to the Manning passing camp.
“Dak is one of the ones who always texts back,” Archie Manning said. “He’s definitely one of our guys.”
Yes, Archie Manning is surprised to see a fourth round draft pick start in his first game as a pro.
But, no, he’s not surprised Prescott took his opportunity to play – caused by an injury to Cowboys’ veteran No. 1 quarterback Tony Romo – and ran with it.
“Dak has the intangibles,” Archie Manning said. “He has so much poise and it translates on the field.”
In a teleconference with Dallas-area media earlier this week, Eli Manning said he enjoyed getting to know Prescott at the Thibodaux camp and believes Prescott “has a bright future ahead of him.”
“He was great with the campers and always had a lot of energy to him, smiling, having fun and made it really easy to work with and listened well,” Manning said of Prescott. “You just saw him throw the ball very naturally, and obviously on game day you see his athletic ability.”
And what does Dak remember most about Eli?
“Eli was a real laid-back guy, I guess you could say,” Prescott said in teleconference this week. “The one thing I took from Eli is just his demeanor and how calm he was about everything. They’d go out there and have the throwing competition, and him and Peyton would be challenging each other and Peyton would be so serious and Eli was just like whatever, but he would hit every single target and Peyton was over there mad and Eli would just laugh. So I’ll never forget that.”
Hard to believe, while the 23-year-old Prescott starts his first NFL regular season game, 35-year-old Eli Manning will be starting his 13th pro season. When Eli started his first pro game, Dak was 10.
The truth is, Eli has been compared to older brother, Peyton, since before he even put on an Ole Miss uniform. It follows that Peyton’s shadow perhaps has caused many observers to miss all Eli has achieved, including two Super Bowl MVPs. For instance, Eli Manning is one of four quarterbacks in NFL history with at least 44,000 career yards, 290 touchdowns, four Pro Bowl appearances and two Super Bowl championships. The other three? John Elway, Tom Brady and Peyton Manning.
You would never hear Eli Manning talk about any of that. He, like Dak, doesn’t toot his own horn.
And, like Dak, Eli is “good people” — something for all of us to remember as we approach the NFL version of Egg Bowl.