On June 23, Arch Manning — the No. 1 overall player and quarterback in the 2023 recruiting class — announced his commitment to the Texas Longhorns. Manning, the nephew of NFL legends Peyton and Eli, is not only a legacy signing but a crucial acquisition for a college football program chasing its own legacy.
Arch Manning signs with the Texas Longhorns
His elder uncle is a five-time MVP and an NFL Hall of Fame quarterback. His younger uncle is a two-time Super Bowl champion — a Giant and giant slayer alike for his exploits against Tom Brady, the arguable greatest of all time. Archie Manning is his grandfather. And he is Arch Manning — already proclaimed the fourth coming of the prodigious Manning family.
Hailing from Isidore Newman High School in New Orleans, Louisiana, Manning is not only the No. 1 quarterback recruit in the 2023 class but the top-ranked recruit in the entire prospect pool. There’s a question to be asked — whether Manning would be ranked so high if his surname was different. But there’s no denying that Manning himself can play.
There’s a great weight that comes with the Manning name. The expectation is that Arch can live up to it. By now, we know that talent runs in the family. And on film, it’s clear that Manning has it in his genes. Like his uncles, he’s tall and lanky. He sports a smooth, quick release and can throw with velocity and touch. He’s athletic enough to extend plays and create outside the pocket, and he has the ability to elevate a team.
That ability, along with his legacy, is why Manning was so coveted. He had offers from Alabama, Georgia, and Clemson. But in the end, he chose the Texas Longhorns.
It’s a fitting destination for Manning — whose relationship with his own legacy is not all too dissimilar from Texas football itself.
Texas chasing its past and fighting to regain glory
Texas’ golden age wasn’t all too long ago. In 2005, the Longhorns won the National Championship with CFB great Vince Young. From 2001 to 2009, the Longhorns finished within the AP Top 10 seven times. Over that span, their record under legendary coach Mack Brown was 101-16. And almost 15 years ago, they were in play for a second National Championship — but lost to Nick Saban’s Alabama Crimson Tide in his first championship victory.
There’s a whole generation that lived through and remembers Texas’ golden age. But in football, 15 years is a lifetime. Since the Longhorns’ fateful defeat in the 2009 championship, the program has only eclipsed 10 wins once. Five times, including in 2021, they’ve fallen below the .500 mark. Texas has had success on the bowl circuit, with a 6-2 record since 2009. But the standard used to be higher in Austin. Much higher.
There’s always been pressure for the new-age Longhorns to live up to their legacy. But that pressure is renewed in the immediate timeline. Texas, along with Oklahoma, has plans to join the vaunted SEC starting in 2025. Few truly know the trials that await them better than head coach Steve Sarkisian. Sarkisian was the offensive coordinator for the championship-winning Alabama Crimson Tide in 2020.
Once among the ranks of a titan, Sarkisian will soon face them across the battle lines. And the ghosts of Texas’ past may haunt the program again. That’s why they need to be ready.
Texas loading up talent to build its way back
A 5-7 record in 2021 does little to build excitement for Texas’ revival. But on paper, Sarkisian’s Longhorns have the makings of a dream team, particularly on offense. Manning may be penciled in as the 2026 NFL Draft QB1, but he’ll have to wait his turn behind Quinn Ewers — a 2024 NFL Draft QB1 contender and the No. 1 recruit from the 2021 class.
Ewers was regarded as one of the most naturally gifted QB recruits in recent memory when he came out. And across the offensive unit, the Longhorns have the talent to support him. Bijan Robinson is a first-round caliber running back with rare instincts and ability, and Roschon Johnson is a worthy complement.
The pass-catching group is filled to the brim with dynamic talent, from long-striding catalyst Xavier Worthy and RAC monster Jordan Whittington to explosive Wyoming transfer Isaiah Neyor and Jahleel Billingsley. Beyond them, there’s five-star Ja’Tavion Sanders, as well as catch-point wizard Agiye Hall — a high-profile Alabama transfer whose status is unclear, but his presence untenable.
It’s an offseason dream team if there ever was one. Flush with promise but also inflating expectations past the point of no return.
But these players alone don’t define Texas’ upcoming season. The offensive line still needs to play better, as does a talented-yet-flawed defensive cast. But explosive players like these don’t often come in such great quantities. It’s an opportunity for Sarkisian to jumpstart his launch toward the SEC.
In the immediate timeline, the presence of Ewers, Robinson, Worthy, and others makes Texas a venerable threat. But off the field, passively, the looming presence and promised legacy of Manning is something Texas can sell as they look to rise brick by brick. Already, Texas has two five-star offensive linemen in the 2022 class.
In 2023 and beyond, Ewers and Manning may help draw more talented recruits to Texas. And ideally, once Manning takes the reins, Texas will be ready to take the next step. Such a progression isn’t just desired; it’s necessary for a program that floats one step farther away from its legacy each season.
Arch Manning and Texas depend on each other for legacy’s sake
Interestingly, the Manning family has had success against Alabama. Peyton was 3-1 against the Crimson Tide in his career at Tennessee. Archie and Eli were a combined 4-2 while playing at Ole Miss. But none of them played the Alabama of today. None of them played in the SEC of today. That challenge will be unique to Arch.
In a way, Arch Manning and Texas now depend on one another — more than almost any player-team combination has. Legacy is a weight on the shoulders of both — for Manning: to create a future in football his surname demands. And for Texas: to return to the glory days of a fading past.
On the surface, Texas’ failure to ever be “back” is a source of light-hearted amusement. But in Austin, it’s a troublesome, taunting reminder of past success and a once-great program since removed from the CFB pantheon. With a move to the SEC on the horizon, the clock is ticking for Texas to truly get back.
When the time comes, they’ll need Arch Manning to help them get there.