Cooper Manning doesn’t think too much about what could have been.
The oldest of the Manning brothers, he had the talent to lead younger Peyton and Eli into the NFL, but his promising college football career was cut short by a serious neck condition called spinal stenosis. He underwent major surgery and a grueling recovery, where he learned to walk again, then blazed a very successful career as an energy trader, with a net worth reportedly north of $10 million.
Cooper would have likely made a place in the NFL as a wide receiver, and he set records at his high school that stood until another phenom came along to break them — Odell Beckham Jr.
Though his path to the NFL was blocked, Cooper Manning has found his way to the spotlight in recent years. This year he took to television as host of The Manning Hour, a two-minute segment on Fox Sports Sunday Kickoff.
— Danita Blackwood (@DanitaBlackwood) January 25, 2016
The segment got good reviews, including this praise from the Georgetown Voice.
“If you weren’t previously aware of any of the above information about Cooper’s life, his newest show alone would most likely win you over. The weekly ‘hour’ features prominent NFL superstars in unique settings, such as the first episode featuring the likes of New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees in shorts and flip-flops, sitting with Manning on the steps of a chic New Orleans house or the most recent show sporting an intimate, commando mani-pedi session with Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton. Manning is serious and accurate in his dry delivery of statements that cause just as many eyebrows to raise as laughs to be heard.”
Cooper Manning has been in the spotlight a number of times before, usually when one of his brothers reaches the Super Bowl. He also took a central role in The Book of Manning, ESPN’s 2013 documentary that explored the family’s history with football and how their father, Archie Manning, crafted a pair of Super Bowl-winning quarterbacks.
Archie Manning was originally supported to take the lead, but Cooper Manning ended up filling in when Archie couldn’t finish the project.
“Dad initially did some stuff and then decided he just didn’t want to do it and put it on hold,” Cooper Manning told For The Win. “(Filmmaker) Rory (Karpf) almost had a heart attack when he found that out but then my mother was really the driver to get dad back and say ‘let’s pursue it.’ I think she felt that their grandchildren needed to see a side of him and some of the details they wouldn’t see otherwise. My mom is to blame for reigniting the whole project.”
— Clay Travis (@ClayTravis) January 27, 2016
The documentary included rare footage of Peyton, Eli, and Cooper Manning as children, including a scene where Peyton was whining at Cooper for what he thought was a dirty hit.
It also delved into the career-ending injury that ruined Cooper’s chance of playing in the NFL.
“I feel pretty lucky to have two brothers to cheer for every Sunday,” Cooper said in 2013, in the days leading up to Peyton’s first Super Bowl appearance with the Denver Broncos. “I’m not a jealous guy. I’m excited to have a little bit of skin in the game here. My glass is full as it is.”
“I’m a happy camper. The fact that I have brothers who have been involved in three of the last four Super Bowls is hard to put into words.”
Cooper Manning is finding his way back into the spotlight this week. With the Denver Broncos back in the Super Bowl, many have their eyes on Cooper and have tried to see if they can pry any information out about Peyton’s possible retirement. So far, he’s giving away nothing.
[Photo by Donald Miralle/Getty Images]