Dodgertown Memories

Archie Manning

New Orleans Saints, 1971–82
Houston Oilers, 1982–83
Minnesota Vikings, 1983–84

Archie Manning is known as one of professional football’s greatest quarterbacks and now, following in his footsteps, are his two successful sons Peyton (Indianapolis Colts) and Eli (New York Giants), back-to-back Super Bowl MVPs in 2007 and 2008. The highly-honored Manning was an All-America quarterback at Ole Miss where his uniform No. 18 is retired and he holds the school mark of 436 yards passing (he was 33-for-52) in a single game on October 4, 1969 against Alabama. He entered the NFL draft in 1971 and was the

Star quarterback Archie Manning stayed and trained at Dodgertown, Vero Beach, Florida between 1974-1982 with the NFL’s New Orleans Saints, with the exception of 1975. Manning was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1989 and was a Pro Bowl All-Star Game selection in 1978 and 1979.

second player selected overall and the first pick of the New Orleans Saints. Playing for the Saints, he set numerous records, played in two Pro Bowls and was named NFC Player of the Year in 1978. As the most revered player in Saints’ history, he holds the record for most yards passing in a career with 21,734 (1971-1982). The Saints trained at Dodgertown in 1974 and again in 1976-84. Manning trained at Dodgertown in 1974 and 1976-82. Currently, Manning is involved in numerous charitable and civic causes throughout the New Orleans area, as well as the Manning Passing Academy, the annual football camp he hosts along with sons Cooper, Peyton and Eli, which in 2007 drew 1,150 high school quarterbacks and receivers and 130 coaches.

We went there initially in 1974 and it was a very peculiar deal as happened periodically during that time and hasn’t happened for a very long time, there was a players’ strike. That was my first memory. Fortunately, we did get it settled and we got in (to Dodgertown) and we had our training camp (we missed some time) but we were there for some time. I had never been to Dodgertown and I was a big baseball fan, and I thought it was fantastic. It had two golf courses there. We probably played some golf, because we didn’t have too much to do all day. This was on while on strike. I know the following year, we trained close to home (at Nicholls State University) and went back (to Dodgertown) in 1976. So, I went 1976, ’77, ’78, ’79, ’80 and ’81. I went for those years. I always went early starting in 1976. I and another player or two would always go down early and kind of golf out. I never played golf during the season. That would kind of be our last days of golf. So, I loved the two golf courses there. My memory of that is that they had a par six (on the Dodger Pines Country Club course). I have a lot of good memories of that. My memory of the first time was that I was very impressed with the facility and all the Dodger memories, like Jackie Robinson Avenue. I grew up a big baseball fan. I was a Yankee fan in the ’50s and ’60’s. Growing up in Mississippi, I liked the (St. Louis) Cardinals in the National League, because that was a team that was so close and we could get to a game there, every now and then. That was the local games on radio. We listened to Harry Caray and Jack Buck. But I still had great respect for the Dodgers. They had great teams. It was something, to be down there with all those great pictures.

“Every year I was there, my roommate was my backup quarterback named Bobby Scott. When we started going back in 1976, every year we had the same room. In our room was a big picture of Duke Snider and Jackie Robinson. So Scotty and I one year got these blow-ups of ourselves and we kind of taped them over Duke and Jackie. And even on one of the avenue signs, we put “Archie Manning Boulevard” just for a little fun. I remember when we left that year, we forgot to take them down and we were going back the next year and I said Scotty, ‘Do you think our pictures are still up in the room?’ and he said, ‘I doubt it!’ We had a lot of fun with that. I just thought all those pictures were so special. The (facilities) were better than anything we had ever had.

“The training camps we had been to before were small college football settings. They served us at Dodgertown. It was just wonderful. They had the fields set up for us and had a lot of different fields to work on. The dressing facilities were spacious. Shoot, it was really good. I thought it was a great place for a training camp. In 1976 is when Hank Stram took over and Hank loved to do things first class. He loved it down there. He thought it was a great training camp.

“I thoroughly enjoyed my time down there. I really, really thought Dodgertown was a great training camp place. When you came in, the main street was Jackie Robinson and my room was almost to the end. At the very end, was the pool and where Hank Stram stayed. We had two to a room. Our other facilities (for training camp) were dormitories. That was so great compared to a dormitory, it was like a motel room. A short walk across the street, you’ve got your cafeteria, our dressing room right there, our training room and you walk right out the back door to the practice fields. You couldn’t beat it.

“I can remember going to a couple of games (at Holman Stadium) in that late afternoon or night. They were using it for (minor league) baseball. We would have a scrimmage with the (Miami) Dolphins. We used different fields. You didn’t get much breeze from the beach being that far inland, so it was hot. We had trained my first three years in Hattiesburg, Mississippi and we had the humidity. So, I thought it was pretty doggone good for us. If you ever had a couple of hours between 12 and 2 – kind of a nap time – a lot of guys would go to the beach just to relax. Under Hank Stram, we did three-a-days. We took a lot of people to camp, maybe 120, rather than 80 or 90. That was brutal. All you ever did was get taped and shower. You get taped before every practice and shower after every practice, it seemed like that was all you were doing.

“The guy that was the manager of the Vero Beach Dodgers (Stan Wasiak), he was there forever and really neat. One year, I went down there, probably in 1979 or ’80 and our son Cooper was playing on this little coach pitch baseball team. When I had to leave and go to training camp, they were in the playoffs. They were the ‘Dodgers’. When I got down there, I was calling to see how they’d do. It’s kind of with your oldest one, your first one, you are really into it and everything. They had a neat little souvenir shop near the cafeteria. I went in there and bought a dozen Dodger t-shirts, little kids sizes, and sent it to them for the playoffs. Oh, my wife called me and told me how fired up the coach was and the kids were to have the real Dodger t-shirts. It’s a good memory.”

Archie Manning