Relationships, visits were key to Manning’s Texas commitment

Around 8 am Thursday morning, coach Nelson Stewart We walked outside from a film session to see how the youth camp was going at New Orleans (La.) Isidore Newman.

He returned to four missed calls from Arch Manning. That was peculiar.

“Arch hasn’t called me once, he’s not a phone person,” Stewart said. “So I called Cooper (Manning) and Arch was unbelievably eloquent and gracious. He wanted to tell me first but just wanted me to keep it private.

“Every hair on my neck stood out. Arch was incredibly gracious and thankful, that nice kid we always talked about. Just for him to make sure I knew. I told him I loved him and the best thing about him is the person he is .”

From one of the first Zoom meetings between the Manning family and Texas coach Steve Sarkisianthere was a saying that resonated all the way to Thursday when the five-star quarterback committed to the Longhorns.

When you know, you know. And Manning knew.

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“That’s what coach Sark said on a Zoom with Ellen (Manning) and Cooper,” Stewart said. “I’ll never forget it. He said my only advice was this, and this was after his sophomore year. Sark said, ‘Whether you come to Texas or not, my only advice is, when you know, you know.’ When that moment hits you go for it.

“The last month of visits essentially set up Thursday’s commitment to Texas.

Manning visited Georgia one final time, and he loved Athens, loved coach Kirby Smartassistants Todd Monken and Buster Faulkner and everything going on there. He visited Alabama, where Stewart said assistant Pete Golding could not have done a better job recruiting the five-star quarterback.

His final visit to Texas was the final piece of the puzzle. The last event Manning would participate in as an uncommitted quarterback happened Wednesday at a 7on7 with his team that was attended by Peyton and Eli Manning, in the area for this weekend’s Manning Passing Academy.

By Thursday morning, Manning would be a Longhorn.

“The first Zoom I remember was looking at Sark right after he was hired, and (Texas QB coach) A.J. Milwee was setting up the computer,” Stewart said. “Just the first time he and Arch got on, (Sarkisian) said, ‘There they are,’ and smiled. It just felt different.

“I’ve been blessed to get to know Sark and I’ve talked to AJ more the last two years than my wife. It’s all authentic, it’s all real. They’re great people. They’re great recruiters. those things they did everything the right way and in the end that’s where he’s going to go.

“I often joke with Sark that our slots and receivers run 4.7s. I can’t even imagine what it would be like if he had guys who could really roll. His ability as a vertical thrower and his athletic ability, there’s such a high ceiling. I’m just so happy for him that he came to this choice so he could enjoy his senior season with his friends.

“Manning proved how special he could be – off the field – a day after returning from his recent Texas visit. Stewart’s daughter’s school was moving, and the Isidore Newman coach needed some guys to help move lockers about 30 minutes away.

The five-star quarterback was one of 20 guys to pitch in, no questions asked.

“When I moved the locker with him that might’ve been my favorite moment because it was a reminder of the kid he is,” Stewart said. “I sent the picture to Sark, and he called a minute later and I said, ‘This is what this kid is doing the day after he got back from Texas.'”

And now the coach who has fielded all the calls and shielded the star quarterback from the recruiting onslaught looks forward to seeing Manning and Randle, his four-star tight end, playing in Austin.

A short flight to Austin, finally being able to put on his cowboy hat and seeing Manning happy – it’s all been worth it for Stewart.

“A Manning going to Texas, going to the SEC, feels right,” Stewart said. “As my wife said I have an old straw cowboy hat, a Stetson, I can finally wear it to a football game. Thankfully, a Southwest flight is only 45 minutes, so I can see these guys.”

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