The Manning brother that you don’t watch on Sunday might be the most interesting of the Manning trio.
No. 1 Eli and Peyton aren’t the only successful siblings in the family.
So here’s the introduction for Cooper Manning, named after his mother’s father. He’s a 39 year old husband and father of three kids. He’s the oldest of the three brothers with two years on Peyton and seven years older than Eli. After graduating from Ole Miss he briefly considered a career as a sports agent and also broadcasting. While his brothers are slinging passes on Sunday, Cooper sits on the 35th floor of a high rise in New Orleans slinging stock for an oil and gas energy company as an investment banker for Weil Howard. Celebritynetworth.com has him listed as being worth five million dollars, though you’ll read that his brothers, family, and friends value him a lot more than that.
No. 2 He might have been the most athletic of the three Manning kids.
At 6-4, 188 pounds there are quite a few people who claim that Cooper was the most talented among Peyton and Eli. In his junior year at Isadore Newman High School in New Orleans, Cooper didn’t drop a single pass that was thrown to him all season. A year later he was catching passes from a familiar face, his sophomore brother, Peyton. That year he caught 76 passes for 1,250 yards. It’s no surprise that he was named an All-State wide receiver in Louisiana. The trivia question that wasn’t meant to be: Who was the receiver that Peyton Manning threw his first complete pass to in high school? Cooper Manning.? Nope, while Peyton did throw his first pass attempt to Cooper, Cooper couldn’t come up with the catch and dropped it.
No. 3 He went to Ole Miss on a scholarship to play football…and ended up never playing in a single game.
With collegiate and possibly professional football set in his sights, Cooper had schools like Texas, Virginia, and Ole Miss interested in him. He went to Ole Miss ready to start his career (Peyton says he would have followed him there if Cooper had been able to play), but those plans were abruptly interrupted just before his freshman season. What was first diagnosed as damage to an ulnar nerve was later diagnosed as a narrowing of the spinal cord, more commonly known as spinal stenosis. Cooper would have three surgeries over a period of time and his football career was done. The numbness and pain in his right hand and the threat of being paralyzed on any hit he might take in a football game wasn’t worth the risk. The evidence of those surgeries shows on the back of his neck with an eight inch scar. While he had to learn to walk again, he has always been the optimist in his situation. “If one of us had to lose football I’m glad it was me.”, is his statement when asked about not being able to play the game he was so good at. Eli recalls when Cooper had his surgery: "When I saw it, it hit me what he'd gone through. He needed a wheelchair and then a walker and a cane to get around. I try to picture myself in his situation—and to picture Peyton in his situation—and I'm telling you he dealt with it a thousand times better than either of us would have. He never complained. We never saw him cry. Cooper loved football as much as Peyton and I do, but he never let us know how much he was going to miss it."
No. 4 Not a fan of his dad, Archie Manning?
When Cooper and Peyton were younger they would go to most of their dad’s games with their mom. The Saints had nine losing seasons during the time that Archie was playing with them and this obviously made for unhappy fans in New Orleans. At one particular game, Cooper noticed some of the fans wearing bags over their heads. Not knowing what it meant, Cooper persuaded Peyton to join him in putting the bags over their heads as the game went on. At another game, Cooper, six years old at the time, continued to hear the Saints crowd booing and asked him mom if he could boo too. That was when his mom and dad decided that the Manning kids might need a break from watching dad play. The Manning kids have always had a great relationship with their dad and these two incidents were just a case of two little boys following the lead of some unhappy hometown fans.
No. 5 His brothers aren’t the only NFL quarterbacks that he’s close with.
In 2006 Drew Brees left the San Diego Chargers and headed to New Orleans. Cooper reached out to him saying that, “Sometimes a guy needs a pal out of the locker room.” In true southern hospitality, Cooper showed him around town giving him the heads up on the best places to eat, best neighborhoods, and best schools. They are still good friends today, although Cooper did pull for Peyton when the Colts and Saints played in the Super Bowl in 2009.
No. 6 Peyton and Cooper could pass for twins.
When Peyton was becoming a legend in Knoxville, Cooper would often go and visit and attend his games. On a few occasions Cooper would make his way to a local bar and hangout. Often times he would have a beer and/or cigar in hand and he would stay out later than the Tennessee coaching staff allowed players to be out on the night before a game. While this obviously wasn’t a problem for Cooper, it did make the Tennessee faithful who saw him at the bar a little worried. Many times he would be mistaken for Peyton and would be asked why he was out so late the night before a game. Instead of correcting them and letting them know he was Cooper and not Peyton, he would play along and make comments like, “Hey, we’re only playing Kentucky tomorrow. What’s the big deal?”
No. 7 He doesn’t live in the past, but he does carry a reminder of the past with him most of the time.
As mentioned, Cooper has been very successful and doesn’t think back on what might have been. But he does keep his freshman I.D. card from Ole Miss in his wallet. The I.D. has a picture taken about a month before he left for college of a head-shaven, well-muscled young man ready for his freshman year. He says he has no big reason for keeping it, maybe just for the bald effect.
No. 8 Peyton and Eli are the serious ones of the bunch.
Cooper has always been the more loud, class clown brother of the three. His dad, jokingly says that when he was little he would often do something loud or embarrassing and he would say that they found him on the doorstep and that they didn’t know where he came from. His mom says that on a few occasions the family would be out at a gathering and the atmosphere of the party would become kind of dry. She would give Cooper a little push to get things stirred up because she knew he could do it with very little effort.
No. 9 Yes, that is Cooper in the ESPN commercial with Peyton and Eli and yes he did pick out that ugly Hawaiian shirt.
When the brothers shot the ESPN commercial where they are taking a tour of the ESPN studios they were all allowed to pick out their own wardrobe from the set. They were told to have fun with the whole thing and Cooper definitely did. When Peyton saw the shirt Cooper was going to wear he told him there was no way that he was going to wear it. Cooper said he absolutely was, and he did. He says that it didn’t take too much effort or practice to portray the three brothers as young, immature siblings in the commercial as they reverted back to their younger days. The three brothers have participated together in a couple of other television spots including an episode of The Simpson’s called, “O Brother, Where Bart Though?”, and on Saturday Night Live when Eli and Cooper presented Peyton with a cake at the end of the show when he was hosting.
No. 10 After his diagnosis, Cooper wasn’t the one who took it the hardest.
When Cooper was first diagnosed with spinal stenosis he was initially upset, but he soon decided to take the approach that these were the cards he was dealt and he would make the most of it. Peyton on the other hand had a difficult time with the news. When his parents asked him if he wanted to be there when they told Cooper he said he couldn’t do it. Instead he wrote him a letter. In the letter he states, "What I'd do to have you back again as a receiver I don't know. But this is all part of growing up—learning to cope with change. I'll be seeing you plenty, I know, but things will be different. I know other people have gone through losing their older brother or sister before, but I think me and you are different. We're not average. We're Coop and Peyt. We always have been and we always will be, thank God. Your bro and pal, Peyt."
Family is obviously an important part of life for the Manning brothers. Cooper continues to help at the Manning’s annual football camp and lives a successful life with no regrets.