Estes: Manning has loads despite Heisman vex

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 31, 2003

Eli Manning captured the coveted Maxwell Award as our land’s best all-around college football player this year. And say what you want to about his not winning &8220;everything,&8221; the Maxwell Trophy said loads.

This Manning must have it too, for he’s received more than one award as one of the nation’s finest players.

No, Eli didn’t win the Heisman Trophy, but his big brother fired five touchdown passes for his pro team Sunday. That would be Indianapolis 38, Atlanta 7 with Peyton doing the flinging.

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These Manning boys. Must run in the family &045; throwing TD passes for sure runs in the Manning family. A timely Manning act, too, because now the Colts with Peyton at the helm are playoff bound. Clutch, man, clutch.

Tony Byrne was a clutch athlete as well. And a two-sport letterman-starter to boot. All this happened at Natchez High in 1953-54, a school year that saw the gifted athlete win Big Eight Conference titles in basketball and football.

The Big Eight was Mississippi’s premiere &045; the biggest and strongest &045; athletic conference, but Tony pulled it off. His name was household throughout the state. And all around the South for that matter. Headlines on sports pages read: &8220;The two-sport athlete from Natchez, Mississippi,&8221; just about everywhere.

I used to love reacting to out-of-towners about &8220;that Tony Byrne y’all got there in Natchez.&8221; They would add: &8220;Man, he must be something.&8221; To which&160;I would always reply: &8220;Man, he is something!&8221; Then add: &8220;that Tony Byrne!&8221;

Incidentally, most truly Big Eight Conference fans would go on and on about Tony’s ability to win both football and basketball scoring titles in the state’s strongest prep conference.

And Tony scored 42 points in a single basketball game. And his single-season football mark of 192 points (and 32 touchdowns) still stands as far as I can determine. The young Natchez whiz was simply phenomenal, that’s all. When you are, you are.

On the basketball court, Tony scored 716 points his senior season for NHS.

I naturally go for natural athletes, and Tony Byrne was one. I guess you caught that years ago. Forty? Fifty? Doesn’t seem possible, but I started working games for The Natchez Democrat in 1948, I believe.

It’s been quite a rewarding journey. I love sports! Always have. And I don’t guess I’m quite through yet. Columnizing anyway.

And, hey &045; Barbara McKinley and I have been friends seems like all our lives, and I wanted to thank you, Barbara, for the Natchez Democrat columns you sought out that prove I started writing for The Democrat in late ’48 and early 1949.

I broke in covering sports teams like the Vidalia Athletics of way back then. It sure brought back old memories to see in her old Democrat clippings stories. I had fun writing (hunting and pecking) on the typewriters of those days.

I still type my columns each week on an old, old Underwood Five, carry them to The Democrat where they’re place in the &8220;system.&8221; How much fun can one man have?

Glenvall Estes is a longtime columnist for The Natchez Democrat.