From One Reb to Another

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It started out as a casual conversation at the 2008 SHOT Show in Las Vegas, a chance to shake Bill Jordan's hand again and to see what would be coming up on Realtree's ESPN Outdoors television programming this fall.

But on Super Sunday, with most attendees scrambling to find a place to watch potential NFL history, our talk turned to the gridiron events scheduled for later in the day.

Jordan, in case you have forgotten, is not just one of hunting's most recognizable faces and the host of "Realtree Outdoors" on ESPN2; he was also a premiere athletic talent in his younger days, a football, basketball, and track star at Georgia's Columbus High School.

Such prodigious athletic talent led Jordan to earn all-state status as a wide receiver and to be heavily recruited in football and basketball by such SEC schools as Georgia, Auburn, Tennessee, and Mississippi.

Settling on Ole Miss' football scholarship offer — in part, according to Realtree.com, to the good hunting and fishing near the university's Oxford campus — Jordan went on to play for the Rebels as a tight end, eventually playing for two bowl teams.

During that span, Jordan had a roommate whose famous last name is on the lips of virtually everyone in the nation today: a Manning.

This Manning was none other than Archie Manning, the College Football Hall of Fame quarterback, who guided the Rebs for 3 years starting in the late 1960s.

During that timeframe, in which Manning established an Ole Miss legacy that continues to this day — the speed limit on the Oxford campus is 18 mph in honor of Manning's retired jersey number — Archie and Bill became good friends.

After their college football days at Ole Miss, Manning went on to become a two-time Pro Bowl Player in the NFL as the quarterback for the New Orleans Saints before finishing his career up with stints with the Houston Oilers and the Minnesota Vikings.

Jordan? He went on to become one of the most influential figures of all time in the outdoor industry, helping totally revolutionize the camouflage industry back in the 1980s.

So on Super Sunday, when our talk turned to the big game, Jordan had mixed emotions when I asked him for a prediction.

"I can tell you where my heart is — it's with the New York Giants and Eli Manning," Jordan said in between signing autographs and posing for pictures with fans who were stopping by the Realtree booth.

"With Archie and the friendship and knowing Cooper, Peyton, and Eli Manning and being there at Archie's wedding umpteen years ago, I'm a Manning family guy," he added.

"Hopefully, the Giants will be able to pull it off."

While Jordan's friendship with Archie and the Manning sons was obviously tugging on his heartstrings, the savvy that turned him into an outdoor business success story suggested something else.

After all, the 18-0 Patriots, seeking their fourth Super Bowl title this decade, were on the verge of NFL history and perfection.

Not to mention the fact that the high-octane Patriots had already defeated Eli and the G-Men once this season.

"They [have] got an uphill battle, but go Giants and Eli," Bill said with a smile.

By day's end, it turns out that Bill Jordan's heart was correct and his sentiments prophetic.

As virtually everyone on the planet knows by know, the Giants pulled off one of the biggest upsets in Super Bowl history, beating the Tom Brady's Patriots by a 17-14 count in a game for the ages.

And leading the way to this improbable and historic fourth quarter win? None other than Bill Jordan's buddy's son, fellow Ole Miss Rebel alumni Eli Manning.

On Super Sunday evening, Jordan and much of the rest of the world watched as Eli guided his team on a clutch drive that will be talked about by SHOT Show attendees for years to come.

That, of course, is due to Manning's Houdini-like escape from the Patriot's pass rush when Eli avoided a sack and virtual Super Bowl doom before completing an even more unlikely and miraculous pass to David Tyree.

Moments after that stunning play occurred — perhaps one of the greatest in the history of the NFL — Eli tossed the game winning TD pass to Plaxico Burress.

A short while later, after the Patriot's last ditch drive was snuffed out, the Manning family reigned supreme atop the pro football world.

No doubt, proud papa Archie was all smiles after watching sons Peyton and Eli lead their respective teams to Super Bowl titles in back-to-back years, not to mention capturing the MVP honors in both games.

And somewhere in Las Vegas, Archie's old Rebel teammate Bill Jordan must have been smiling too: A smile that was from one Reb to another.

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