The fairy tale of Arch Manning to Virginia came to an end on Thursday as the five-star quarterback and No. 1 recruit in the class of 2023 announced his commitment to Texas.
The Longhorns beat out SEC powerhouses Georgia and Alabama, who have combined to win four of the last seven national championships, for the services of Manning, the son of Cooper Manning, nephew to Peyton and Eli, and grandson to Archie. The 6'3", 204-pound quarterback from Isidore Newman in New Orleans has had one of the most hyped and publicized college recruitments in recent memory.
For a brief moment, the Virginia football program was at the center of that recruiting saga, as the Cavaliers made national headlines when Arch Manning made a surprise visit to UVA in early April. Wild theories were immediately generated to speculate as to how the Cavaliers, who just underwent a coaching change after a 6-6 season, managed to get the No. 1 prospect in the country to take a visit.
Family connections certainly played a primary role. Arch's mother, Ellen Heidingsfelder, is a graduate of the University of Virginia, as is his aunt (Peyton Manning's wife), Ashley Thompson. Arch's older sister, May, is currently a student at UVA as well. Peyton Manning even gave a speech at Virginia's Valedictory Exercises in 2014. The UVA-Manning connection runs deep and was undoubtedly a major factor in this visit.
The timing of Manning's visit could be explained by the coaching change from Bronco Mendenhall to Tony Elliott, a coach who built a relationship with Manning during his time as Clemson's offensive coordinator when the Tigers were pursuing Manning. Elliott also coached multiple decorated quarterbacks (Deshaun Watson and Trevor Lawrence), who won national championships at the collegiate level before going on to earn starting positions in the NFL.
After Elliott left Clemson for the UVA job, the Tigers quickly fell out of the running for Manning. A few months later, Tony Elliott was able to convince the No. 1 recruit in the country to pay a visit to Charlottesville. It seems likely that the combination of Arch Manning's family connection to the school and his personal relationship with Elliott was what ultimately resulted in the visit.
While the pipe dream of Arch Manning coming to Virginia and leading the resurgence of the UVA football program was a nice thought for a few months, everyone knew that it was only a matter of time before Manning committed to one of the college football powerhouses pulling out the stops to recruit him. It is surprising that Manning did not end up at an SEC program like Alabama or Georgia or even Ole Miss, instead opting to go to a Texas program that has had three different head coaches in the last six years and where there is a tremendous amount of pressure to turn the program around.
For Virginia, merely getting a player of Arch Manning's caliber to visit is a significant victory for Tony Elliott as he enters his first season leading the UVA football program.
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