Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Some Tough Mothers

As you probably know, this Sunday, May 13th, is Mother’s Day.  (Have you mailed your card yet???)  In honor of this special days for mommies everywhere, Naptime Huddle is taking a look at some famous moms in the world of professional football. 
Football moms endure a lot, and at every stage of their sons’ careers, from youth football to the NFL:  cleaning sweaty, grimy jerseys (even pads and jock straps); caring for injuries, from minor scrapes and bruises to cringe-inducing breaks and sprains; and helping their sons come to terms with disappointment, from losing, or not making the team.  For moms of professional players, they also have to adapt to living in the public eye;* even if the spotlight is pale compared to her son’s, its glare is blinding compared to the relative darkness of anonymity (although it looks like first-round pick Matt Kalil’s mom can handle it.  Click here for an explanation).

Below are three of the more recognizable names of mothers who have provided endless support for their famous footballing sons.  One has made her appearance in most of the living rooms in the United States; another is famous for standing by her football man or, in her case, men; and the third became a star after the story of her son’s life before the pros hit the big screen.

Wilma McNabb

In the late 1990’s, Campbell’s Soup launched the “Mama’s Boys” campaign for their Chunky soup line.  The ads featured popular NFL players who were babied by faux moms who made them steaming hot bowls of Chunky soup.  Donovan McNabb, then quarterback for the Philadelphia Eagles, became part of the campaign in 2001.  In line with the participation of previous players, an actress played the role of Donovan’s mother.

The next year, however, the ad agency decided to give Wilma, Donovan’s actual mama, a shot at playing herself in the spots.  The rest, as they say, is history.  Wilma (with Donovan at her side) became the face of the Chunky campaign, which reflected her real role as a den mother of sorts to the Eagles team (she had actually cooked mac and cheese and red beans and rice for them).  A few of the ads went a step further, though, depicting her knitting scarves for the players and reading them bedtime stories while on the road.

Here’s one of her spots: 

“Boys, play nice!”

Olivia Manning

As Homecoming queen at Ole Miss, it seemed only natural that Olivia Williams would date, and later marry, Archie Manning, the school’s star quarterback.  She moved with him to New Orleans when the Saints drafted Manning with the second overall pick in the 1971 draft.  Archie played for the Saints for ten seasons, and was one of the rare bright spots for a team in a very long stretch of forgettable seasons.  Though he eventually left the Saints to play for the Houston Oilers and, later, the Minnesota Vikings, Archie and Olivia continued to call New Orleans their home and Olivia became very active within the community.  One of Olivia's projects is Women of the Storm, an organization formed after Hurricane Katrina to keep the rebuilding of the Gulf Coast a priority for the public and policy makers.

Being the wife of a professional football player is hard enough:  in his 14-year career, Archie never played on a team with a winning record.  But imagine going through your husband’s tough career and then watching two of your sons following in their father’s footsteps.  Olivia is the proud mother of two NFL quarterbacks:  Peyton Manning (a Super Bowl winner with the Indianapolis Colts and recently signed by the Denver Broncos) and Eli Manning, who just won his second Super Bowl with the New York Giants.  Archie and Olivia are often torn on which son’s game to see in person, but you gotta know that Thanksgiving is interesting in the Manning house.

Oh, and Olivia has also managed to get into acting with her famous family.  Here is a commercial they did for ESPN:** 

OK, not a speaking part, but you take what you can get!

Leigh Anne Tuohy

Regular Naptime Huddle readers will remember Leigh Anne from our discussion of Classic Football Movies.  It was Leigh Anne’s befriending, and eventually adopting, a future NFL star that inspired the Michael Lewis book The Blind Side, which was adapted into a feature film in 2009.

Michael Oher spent most of his childhood moving from foster home to foster home in Memphis, Tennessee.  He met Tuohy’s son at a private Christian school, where he was admitted after the school’s football coach recognized his potential.  Over time, the Tuohy’s treated Oher like a member of the family and Leigh Ann eventually became his legal guardian.  With Leigh Anne’s encouragement and tireless advocating on his behalf, Oher was recruited by Ole Miss and was a first round draft pick of the Baltimore Ravens.  Leigh Anne has made a name for herself outside of the football, too.  An accomplished interior designer, she was added to the team of designers for the 2010 season of ABC’s Extreme Makeover: Home Edition. 

Even if she hasn’t raised a Super Bowl winner, starting lineman or soup-eating quarterback, every mom deserves some time in the spotlight.  So please make every mom in your life—yours, a friend’s, even you—feel special this Sunday. 

Have a wonderful Mother’s Day!

*The PFPMA—Professional Football Players Mothers’ Association—helps NFL moms ease into their new role, and provides support for them during and after their sons’ careers.  The current president of PFPMA is Euwayne Denise Wayne, mother of veteran Indianapolis Colts receiver Reggie Wayne.  To find out more about the PFPMA, visit

**The Mannings' oldest son, Cooper, also appears in the ad. Cooper showed promise as a wide receiver in high school, but had to end his career after a diagnosis of spinal stenosis, a narrowing of the spinal canal. He is now a partner in an energy investment firm in New Orleans. 

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