Cooper Manning is the “other” brother.
The oldest of the three Manning siblings, Cooper has long been overshadowed by Petyon and Eli’s on-field accomplishments. After all, when your young brothers are Super Bowl champions (and going for another this Sunday), it’s tough to break into your own spotlight.
Still, Cooper Manning might actually be more interesting than either Peyton or Eli. In fact, Cooper’s up-and-down road to football and away from it, is one of the most intriguing parts of the Manning family legacy. And, with regular appearances on Fox NFL Sunday, Cooper is proving to the world that he’s also pretty darn hysterical as well.
Here’s everything you need to know about Cooper, his status as the “other” Manning, and his recent foray into solo stardom:
1. Cooper & His Wife Ellen Have Been Married Since 1999
Manning is a dedicated family man now, married to Ellen Heidingsfelder for over a decade now. The pair first met when they were growing up, but didn’t start getting serious until they were older and the pair tied the knot in March 1999.
Together, the couple have three children together: May, Arch (named for his grandfather Archie Manning) and Heid. If he’s being a bit honest, Cooper was thrilled that the first child was a girl. No one asked her if she would be interested in football.
Ellen also has strong ties to New Orleans and worked as a lawyer when she and Cooper first started dating.
2. He Was a Standout Wide Receiver at Isidore Newman High School
Cooper grew up around football. It was difficult not. After all, Archie Manning was New Orleans. He was the Saints. And, of course, his son would play football.
He just wouldn’t play quarterback.
Cooper was a star receiver at Isidore Newman High School, so talented on the field that, as a junior, he actually persuaded his coach to replace the team’s wing-T offense with a more pass-oriented attack. By that point, Cooper was 6-foot-4 and 185 pounds, boasting a 4.7 40-yard dash. He didn’t miss a pass thrown to him in his junior season.
During his senior season, Cooper only got better, bolstered by the presence of Peyton, then a sophomore, as the team’s quarterback. Peyton described playing football with his brother, telling Sports Illustrated:
Even when he was covered, you could always loft it up high and he’d catch it. No defensive back could stop him – he was taller than they were and he could leap well. This creates a perfect comfort zone for the quarterback. Hey, you think, Cooper’s either going to catch the ball or make sure it’s incomplete.
He set nearly every receiving record at Newman (which would eventually be broken by Odell Beckham, Jr.) and committed to play college football at Ole Miss. Copper, however, never got the chance to play at the next level.
3. Cooper’s Football Career Was Cut Short When He Was Diagnosed With Spinal Stenosis
Shortly after his senior football season ended, Cooper was playing basketball at Newman and something was wrong. Normally a right-handed shooter, Cooper couldn’t get the right touch on the ball and, instead of saying anything, focused on learning how to play with his left hand.
When he won a state championship with the basketball team in 1993, Cooper couldn’t ignore the symptoms anymore. Something was wrong. At the urging of the Ole Miss team doctor, Cooper and Archie traveled to Minnesota to meet with specialists at the Mayo Clinic. They diagnosed cooper with a congenital condition called spinal stenosis. In other words, his spinal canal was narrowing. There would be no more football. Cooper explained what it felt like to learn his dream was over, telling The Tampa Bay Times:
It changes your whole world. I’d played organized football since fifth grade. And here I was at school, making friends, living in an athletic dorm, and all of a sudden, they tell you you can’t do that anymore. I had to struggle with it for a while. Yeah, I guess I played my entire career a hit away from the wheelchair; thank God I was kind of a wuss and ran out of bounds so many times.
Cooper underwent his first surgery in the summer of 1993 and, essentially, had to relearn how to walk. He went through rehab with his entire right leg immobile and his left leg numb. Still, he never gave up.
He returned to school and found a life away from the gridiron.
4. He Is a Partner in the energy Firm Howard Weil, Labouisse & Friedrichs
With his football career behind him, Cooper refocused his life and found a brand-new identity away from the game that had once defined him. Now, he trades oil and gas stocks for an energy investment boutique called Howard, Weil, Labouisse and Friedrichs.
He works every day in an office on the 35th floor of the Energy Centre in downtown New Orelans and while it’s a long way from a football field, Cooper is still finding success.
“I’ve talked to Archie and Olivia about Cooper,” his boss Bill Walker told Sports Illustrated in 2003. “I wanted them to know how good he is at his job. While they can clearly see Peyton and Eli’s success, I’m not sure they fully understand Cooper’s. He’s the absolute best at what he does – like his younger brothers, an All-America by any standard.”
5. Cooper Joined Fox NFL Kickoff in 2015
This year, after spending much of his life in his brother’s football-shadow, Cooper stole back a little bit of the attention when he joined Fox NFL Kickoff in 2015 and started his own weekly segment; The Cooper Manning Hour (Minus 58 Minute).
If fans thought Peyton and Eli were funny on their respective SNL stints, they’ve got nothing on Cooper. His dry humor has brought in some of the biggest names in the league and have helped stage everything from spa days with Cam Newton to M&M tosses with Odell Beckham Jr.
Manning, who majored in broadcast journalism at Ole Miss, described the decision to jump into TV, telling The Los Angeles Times:
I’ve always enjoyed making people laugh, or at least trying to. I’m pretty comfortable with a microphone in my hand. The goal wasn’t to do comedy, but just to make it fun. If it happens to be funny, great. But at least it’s showing a side of these players that they wouldn’t be able to display otherwise. I give them free rein. I say, ‘Look, I’m going to come at you and you’re not going to know what’s coming. You can be mean to me, you can laugh, you can tell me it’s not funny. You can do whatever you want. We’ll make you look better than me at the end of the day. Your parents will be proud.
Before joining Fox, Cooper had done some part-time radio work and even pitched the idea for the show to ESPN. Still, he said he’s not certain he’ll ever interview his brothers.
“I’m going to wait till I get really big before I do them,” he told the Times. “Because they’ll charge me.”