METAIRIE, La. — Retirement has been kind to Peyton Manning, and in turn, has provided him an opportunity to give back.
The former Tennessee quarterback spent part of the spring back in his hometown of New Orleans, checking in on his alma mater, Newman High School.
There, he — along with his father, Archie Manning, and brother, Eli Manning — decided to help the 2016 Newman football team as well as future generations and their fans by spearheading fundraising efforts for a new practice field, two locker rooms, a sky deck, a new press box and a pavilion called ‘Reginelli Way” to honor his high school coach, Tony Reginelli.
The renovations are currently underway, and already those that are watching the construction are taken back by what’s in store.
“We think it’s going to be state of the art,” said Newman coach Nelson Stewart, a teammate of Peyton’s in high school. “It’s just going to be a beautiful place.”
All of the changes will fall under the label of the Manning Athletic Complex.
Soon after winning the Super Bowl, Peyton and the rest of the Manning family came through Newman and felt there should be a greater tribute to their high school coach on the field.
The Mannings, Stewart and other members of the Newman board also discussed other modifications the athletic facilities needed, and Peyton was among those leading the charge.
“They came and they helped fund the entire project,” Stewart explained. “It started with a tribute to Coach Tony Reginelli, and now, essentially, our new athletic complex, gym, fields fall under the Manning Athletic Complex. The stadium is kind of the centerpiece, and they wanted to give people a great opportunity Friday night to see us play.”
Since Manning last played for Newman in 1993, the football program has continued to grow.
Led by three-year starter Miles Lapeyre, Manning’s alma mater reached the Louisiana Division III semifinals in 2014 for the first time since 1991 when they were led by Manning. Newman knocked on the door again in last year’s playoffs.
While the Mannings are no longer the face of the Newman program, they realized the program needed facilities that matched the level of the team, and that includes remembering those who helped build it.
“The biggest thing was finding a way to honor Coach Reg. He did so much for us and continues to be involved,” Stewart said of the coach, who retired from coaching when Manning left for Tennessee, but helped Newman’s athletic director until 2005.
“We started with Reginelli Way and built it from there. Every time our players come out on Friday night, they touch a plaque of Coach Reg. Now they see Coach Reg when they walk in. We tried to attack the things that were important. As our program expanded a bit, the crowds have gotten bigger, we’ve gotten more media coverage, so we needed a better press box and to give a better viewing experience.”
Sam Spiegelman covers LSU football recruiting for SECCountry.com and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Follow him on Twitter for the latest on who’s on their way to play in Tigers Stadium.