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The Manning boys grew up in a shadow of fame that would have been hard to escape even if they had become dentists. Archie is a Gulf Coast legend raised in Drew, Miss., who starred at Ole Miss, where the campus speed limit is still 18 m.p.h. in recognition of his jersey number. He also inspired a popular Dixie ditty, The Ballad of Archie Who. As a pro, he owned New Orleans, despite the awful team. As a father, he worried about heaping expectations on his kids, so he stayed on the sideline. "I was scared to get too involved," says Archie. "I just thought, 'Look, you're asking for trouble.' They had built-in pressure, so I sure wasn't going to add to it. I didn't want to wear this ex-quarterback's hat."
Peyton nonetheless took up football--and everything else--with the same fervor he now displays at the line of scrimmage, where, before the snap, he shouts instructions at everyone but the cheerleaders. Cooper remembers the third grade, when Peyton's basketball coach told him to foul an opponent to stop the clock. Peyton kicked the kid in the gut. Archie recalls another youth hoops game, when Peyton told his coach, "The reason we lost this game tonight is because you don't know what you're doing." Then there was the time he dressed in a red ruffled shirt and tight black pants to tango in an eighth-grade play. "He was dead serious about it," says Archie. "Everybody was kind of like, 'My God.' He did it at 110 m.p.h."
The Colts' high-octane offense is now Peyton's place. "He's not opposed to jumping on somebody's butt," notes Archie. Peyton cajoles linemen constantly to pick up their blocking assignments. After a receiver drops a pass, he often looks as if someone dropped an anvil on his toes. "Guys on offense know if they want the ball, they've got to run their routes crisp all the time, and they've got to be where he expects them to be," says Colts head coach Tony Dungy of his quarterback. "So Peyton gives them a little bit of carrot and stick."
Eli doesn't have the résumé to rule the Giants with such an iron fist. While he has shown a flair for late-game heroics, he is not yet Joe Montana. He has struggled with his accuracy, throwing four interceptions in a loss to the Minnesota Vikings. Plus, his personality is just not Peyton's. Eli attributes his reticence at least partly to birth order. "Around dinner, I was just kind of watching and letting them do the talking," says Eli of his older brothers. "Don't speak until spoken to."
He has never devoured football like Peyton. Before college, Eli couldn't name all the teams in the Southeastern Conference, sacrilege for a Louisiana schoolboy. He even has trouble remembering the start times of his games. In high school, about 90 minutes before a big game, he called his mother Olivia at home. She thought something was wrong. He just wanted her to tape Seinfeld. Eli is also more culturally ambitious than the average NFL quarterback with a $20 million signing bonus. He's a budding oenophile and likes to scout antiques, which could make him the only NFL quarterback adept at locating both receivers and Empire secretaires.