Archie Manning: The Story and Significance of a Mississippi Icon Lesson Plan


As a young man Archie Manning excelled both athletically and academically in the small Delta town of Drew, Mississippi. Upon graduating from high school with valedictorian honors, Manning began his college football career in 1967 at the University of Mississippi. Under the guidance of legendary college coach John Vaught, Archie Manning and the Ole Miss Rebels football team achieved national recognition. Prior to the start of Manning’s senior year in 1970, the Rebels became one of the national favorites in college football. Perhaps more importantly, however, was Manning’s importance to his home state. During a time when many Americans viewed Mississippi as the nation’s bastion of racism, violence, and poverty, Manning’s rising football career, coupled with his personal character both on and off the football field, provided Mississippi with a symbol of success and pride. Water towers were emblazoned with Manning’s name, and “The Ballad of Archie Who,” written in 1969 by a postman in Magnolia, Mississippi, and recorded by country singer Murray Kellum and his “Rebel Rousers” band, essentially enshrined Manning as a Mississippi folk hero, particularly to white Mississippians. Although Manning eventually finished his collegiate career on a seemingly down note, he ended his time at Ole Miss with a litany of school and conference records. He spent fourteen seasons in the National Football League, most of which were with the New Orleans Saints, and was recognized as the National Football Conference (NFC) Player of the Year in 1978. For many Mississippians, Archie Manning remains a folk hero and the state’s top athlete of the century.

Curricular Connections

Mississippi Studies Framework: Competencies 1 and 6

Teaching Level

Grades 7 through 12



The students will:

  1. Summarize the life of Archie Manning.
  2. Illustrate events in the life of Archie Manning.
  3. Identify state happenings during the 1960s and early 1970s which may have contributed to Mississippi’s poor image concerning race, violence, and poverty.

Opening the Lesson

The teacher will ask the students the following questions:

  • What is a folk hero?
  • Why is a folk hero different from a celebrity?

Once the students understand the difference between the two terms, the teacher will ask students to name celebrities and folk heroes from Mississippi. The teacher can list the names on the board. After the class discussion, the teacher will tell the students that they will have an opportunity to learn why Archie Manning is considered a Mississippi folk hero.

Developing the Lesson

  1. The teacher will ask the students to create K-W-L charts in their notebooks. The students should write on their charts what they already “know” about Archie Manning and what they “wonder” about him.
  2. Next, the students will read the Mississippi History Now article, “Archie Manning: The Story and Significance of a Mississippi Icon.” As they read the article, students should record notes on the graphic organizer. The investigative question students should consider as they read the article and take notes is: “Why was Archie Manning considered a Mississippi folk hero to many Mississippians, particularly during his collegiate football career?”
  3. Once the students have completed their graphic organizers, the teacher will allow the students to work with a partner to write a summary of the Mississippi History Now article. Students should use their graphic organizer to write the summary.
  4. The teacher will ask the students to share examples from their summaries in response to the question posed in item 2 above.
  5. For the next segment of the lesson, students should be placed in groups of three. The teacher will allow the student groups to select one of the following projects to complete.
    • Write a ballad or poem about the career and life of Archie Manning and his impact on the state of Mississippi
    • Write a speech about the career and life of Archie Manning and his impact on the state of Mississippi
    • Design a mural or collage about the career and life of Archie Manning
    • Write a short essay identifying state happenings during the 1960s and early 1970s which may have contributed to Mississippi’s poor image concerning race, violence, and poverty
      Students should use the Mississippi History Now article as a resource as well as other sources.
  6. Along with the project, students should submit a bibliography of sources used to complete their project.
  7. The students will present their projects to the class upon conclusion of the lesson.

Closing the Lesson

The students will complete the last column on their K-W-L charts with what they “learned” about Archie Manning and his impact on the state of Mississippi. The teacher will ask for student volunteers to respond to the following questions:

  1. What did you learn about Archie Manning?
  2. Why was Archie Manning considered a folk hero in Mississippi, particularly during the late 1960s and early 1970s?
  3. After your study of Archie Manning, is there anything that you admire or appreciate most about him?

Students can respond orally or in writing to the questions listed above. The teacher can also locate on the internet “The Ballad of Archie Who” (YouTube link) to play for the class during the close of the lesson.

Assessing Student Learning

  • Class participation
  • K-W-L charts
  • Graphic organizers
  • Summaries
  • Projects


  • Students can further research the social history of Mississippi at the time Archie Manning attended the University of Mississippi.
  • Students can research other NFL players from Mississippi.
  • Students can research Archie Manning’s charitable work and public serve after his NFL career.
  • Students can research the Manning NFL football legacy.

Other Mississippi History Now articles:

Cool Papa Bell

David “Boo” Ferriss: A Baseball Great

James O. Eastland

Karla Smith is the Social Studies Department Chair at Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College’s Jefferson Davis Campus.