Currently, more than 1,500 players compete in the NFL. Thousands more are retired. You likely recognize some names. Many of the most famous NFL players can thank family dynasties for their insane football skills. Two names in particular, Manning and Hasselbeck, have become the stuff of legends. Their families even crossed paths before the NFL.
A tale of two football families
Few names evoke a picture of NFL royalty quite like the Mannings. The two brothers, Peyton and Eli Manning, are synonymous with pro football of the 2000s. Peyton needs no introduction.
Over the span of 18 years in the league, the older Manning brother racked up countless accolades. He’s the only quarterback in NFL history to win the Super Bowl with two franchises. Add that to his impressive rap sheet of nearly 80,000 passing yards and over 500 touchdowns, and you’ve got a future Hall of Famer.
Younger brother Eli’s career is nothing to laugh at either. Over his 15-year tenure, the 2004 first-round draft pick put up solid numbers. He logged just under 60,00 passing yards, and 360 touchdowns, winning two Super Bowls against the juggernaut Patriots.
If the Manning brothers are the most easily recognizable family in football, then the Hasselbecks are No. 2.
Matt and Tim Hasselbeck never achieved the Manning brothers’ stats, but they were great players, too. Matt, the older brother, played in the NFL for 16 years — 10 with the Seahawks. The older Hasselbeck had 212 touchdowns and 36,000 passing yards, a solid number by anyone’s standards. In 2005, he led the Seahawks to their first Super Bowl appearance. Although they lost, his playoff run forever cemented his name in the history books.
Even though he was a decent athlete, Tim, the younger brother, never got the traction his older brother did. He played for six seasons, serving as a backup quarterback to many teams, including Eli’s Giants, before hanging up his cleats to become an ESPN broadcaster.
The roots of the Hasselbeck and Manning family trees
The tale of the Mannings and Hasselbecks dates back further where their family histories start to intersect. The respective dynasties go all the way back to the ’70s when Archie Manning and Don Hasselbeck both played in the NFL.
Archie Manning was a decent quarterback in his own right. He played for 10 seasons, starting in 1971, with the New Orleans Saints. Although he never had a winning record with the team, he was a solid player who could take a hit. His passing record held impressive numbers that did not reflect the team’s overall performance.
Don Hasselbeck, on the other hand, was a successful tight end who played for many teams including the 1984 Super Bowl-winning Raiders and the 1985 champion Giants. Throughout his career, Hasselbeck’s talents were instrumental to whatever team he represented.
Old friends, old competitors
As Archie and Don moved into the final phase of their careers, their paths crossed. In 1984, the two athletes began a brief tour of duty together with the Vikings, reports the Indy Star. Archie was serving as the backup quarterback and Don was a tight end for Minnesota. At the time, both families had small children, including Peyton, Eli, Matt, and Tim.
Fast forward to November 2005. Eli and his backup quarterback Tim prepared to take on Matt and the Seahawks. As it turns out, the two families met long before the younger generation hit NFL super-stardom. This wasn’t the first time the brothers faced off against one another.
The Mannings and the Hasselbecks were constant fixtures at their fathers’ practices and games. The boys would play pick up games together, creating childhood rivalries that shaped their professional careers. Matt reflected on that time in Minneapolis: “All the kids would play football in the indoor bubble against the trainers and equipment guys,” he told the Indy Star.
In fact, Don and Betsy Hasselbeck invited Archie and Olivia Manning to their suite when a playoff game saw Peyton’s Colts face Eli and Matt’s Giants, as the Herald reports.