Eli Manning and the Famous Barbee Mural

Republished with permission of Hines Liles ’13, original written in November 9, 2013 issue of The Oracle

Many of us have memorized the quote in the Barbee Center, “Effort in sport is a matter of character rather than reward. It is an end in itself and not a means to an end.”

The original mural, as it appears in the Barbee Center

The original mural, as it appears in the Barbee Center

This quote has always stood out to me, and in an effort to learn more about it, I went looking for its origins. I started my search in the simplest way possible, with Google. Google told me nothing about where the quote came from, but it did return one thing with the quote, in the form of an article about Eli Manning written in a New Orleans newspaper. The article mentioned that Eli Manning used the same quote that has “pride of place” in the Barbee Center right underneath his high school yearbook photo. This fact stood out to me because, as many people around Woodberry know, Eli Manning attended Woodberry Sports Camp in 1993 and 1994. His Sports Camp team even won the football championship in the 1994 camp.

Eli Manning at Sports Camp

Reading the quote made me wonder: Did he get it from Woodberry? So I continued the search for its origin and took a trip to see Mrs. Culbertson and the Woodberry archives. We located the program for the opening of the Barbee Center in 1986, which told us that the quote was carried in the school catalogue for many decades. We searched through the catalogues and traced the quote to the athletic section of the Woodberry Forest School Catalogue 1971-72 edition, without an author mentioned, through until 2004. Hoever, we did find one source naming an author, The Woodberry Forest Magazine and Journal, Winter 1986 issue. This issue attributes the statement to J. Carter Walker, our first Headmaster. Before that source was found, we had thought the quote might belong to Red Caughron, who was the Athletic Director at the time the quote first appeared in the Woodberry Catalogue, because the quote represents so well the approach he took to Woodberry athletics.

The original 1907 photo of Woodberry's baseball team that was used to create the famous mural. Photo by Clowes, Orange, VA.

The original 1907 photo of Woodberry’s baseball team that was used to create the famous mural. Photo by Clowes, Orange, VA.

It is tempting to say that Eli’s knowledge of the quote originated at Woodberry, but for now we don’t know for sure. We do know though that, according to his father, Archie Manning, “He came with several friends from New Orleans, he won some nice awards and had a very good time. My grandsons will definitely consider going to sports camp at Woodberry.” (props to Gray Robertson for getting this quote!)

It is great to wonder, did this quote have such a profound effect on Eli Manning that it stuck with him after he left Woodberry and all the way through his high school career? Whether they actually did or not, they are eloquent words I stop to read each time I pass by that very special Barbee mural–just as I imagine a younger Eli Manning would have done during his two summer-time camp stays here on our campus.

Categories: Yesterday

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