Fifty years ago today was a fairly significant day in Mississippi sports history. On Dec. 10, 1966, Archie Manning, an unsung, skinny, freckle-faced, red-haired quarterback from Drew, signed a football scholarship with Ole Miss.
There was little fanfare. It was not huge news. Manning was one of eight high school quarterbacks John Vaught signed after the 1966 high school football season. Meridian’s Bob White, who played high school football for Bob Tyler in the powerful Big Eight Conference, was the superstar of the group.
Manning, who played in the much smaller Delta Valley Conference, was recruited by only three major colleges: Ole Miss, Mississippi State and Tulane.
This was back when the signing date was in December and the colleges would send the assistant coach who recruited a player to his hometown to sign him. The local newspaper would send a photographer to take a photo of the player, his family and the assistant coach.
For instance, that day football legend Bruiser Kinard was in Jackson for the much more heralded signing of prized lineman Skipper Jernigan of Murrah.
Archie Manning? There’s a story there …
Ole Miss sent Roy Stinnett, to sign him. Stinnett, who had coached high school ball in Clarksdale, was at Ole Miss working on his Master’s and helping the Ole Miss staff as a graduate assistant. Stinnett was also officiating high school basketball at the time to earn extra money and Archie was also Drew’s basketball star (and baseball, too).
Drew was playing in the Coahoma County Basketball Tournament that weekend. Stinnett was officiating the tournament, doing double duty.
“We beat Greenwood, Clarksdale and Coahoma to win the tournament,” Manning says. “We played a game Friday night, and then twice on Saturday, won all three. It was a huge upset.”
After the Saturday morning game, Manning showered, put on his Sunday clothes and then posed for a photo with his mother, father and Stinnett.
Now, you, as I, might wonder about a possible conflict of interest where Stinnett was concerned. He was officiating the basketball tournament, while also signing one of the players to a scholarship.
“We won three games and I guarantee you I shot at least 50 free throws,” he says. “That’s all I’m gonna say about that.”
The next summer, Manning and White both played for the North team, coached by Bob Tyler, in the Mississippi high school all-star game. White started for the North but suffered a horrible knee injury from which he never really recovered. Manning came off the bench to account for five touchdowns and was the game’s MVP. It was a precursor to his storybook career at Ole Miss.
Dec. 10, 1966, is notable for another big Mississippi sports happening. Mississippi State fired Paul Davis as its head football coach that day.
That’s right: State fired its football coach on signing day.
“I really, really admired Paul Davis,” Manning says. “I had just always wanted to play at Ole Miss. I know that was the day Coach Davis got fired because somebody at Mississippi State called my house looking for him because they thought he might be there recruiting me. They were trying to find him to fire him.”