Ren Guidry’s favorite football player is Drew Brees.
Myles Jones is a Cam Newton fan.
But Friday, the two Newman first-graders were wearing No. 18 jerseys — Guidry, a Denver Broncos one, and Jones, a Newman Greenie version — in honor of their school’s most famous graduate.
“Peyton Manning went to school here, and he’s playing in the Super Bowl,” declared Ren before a pep rally in support of Manning and the Broncos against the Carolina Panthers on Sunday.
Added Myles, “Peyton Manning is my second-favorite player. But I want him to win.”
Myles wasn’t alone in his sentiments.
The entire Newman student body was on hand Friday in the Palaestra — elementary schoolers on the floor, with the middle schoolers and high schoolers on either side in the bleachers — as Greenies football coach Nelson Stewart, a teammate of Manning’s in the early 1990s, talked about what he has meant to the Uptown school.
“Peyton Manning graduated from here 22 years ago, and that’s a long time,” Stewart said. “But it was no accident that he came back here to Newman to work in the offseason and got his body in the best shape of his career.
“This school is very important to him. So on Sunday, when you’re cheering for the Broncos and Peyton, you’re also cheering for Newman because he embodies the best that Newman has to offer.”
Pre-Super Bowl pep rallies are getting to be old hat at Newman.
This is six in the past 10 years, four to send encouragement to Peyton — a signed “Good Luck, Peyton” banner was being FedExed to him in California — and two for brother Eli Manning, who happens to be a finalist for the NFL Man of the Year. The winner of that award will be announced Saturday.
Friday’s rally featured the school’s band, cheerleaders and dance team. There were quite a few No. 18s to be seen — Broncos, Newman and even a few from the Indianapolis Colts, Peyton’s first NFL team.
“It’s something we just fell into doing,” Stewart said of the pep rallies. “I don’t think we’ve even realized what an accomplishment it is for a little school like this.
“But it also shows what the Manning family means to the school and our entire community.”
Both Peyton, who graduated in 1994, and Eli, a 2000 alumnus, attended Newman from kindergarten on, as did Cooper Manning, who graduated in 1992.
They left strong impressions on their teachers.
“Peyton applied himself in the classroom just like he did in football,” said Peter Gendel, who was Peyton’s sixth-grade general science teacher and had him in earth science in the eighth grade. “He was a serious student — or about as much as any middle school boy can be interested in science.”
Longtime librarian Dave Prescott said Peyton “could have run the school if he’d wanted to,” adding, “He was well-organized, focused and took his responsibilities very seriously.
“Now Eli was pretty lively, as was Cooper. But all the Mannings were totally reliable and persons of integrity, as they have proven until this day.”
While the Manning brothers have been gone from the school for some time, plenty of connections remain.
Cooper’s children attend Newman.
And there are students like senior Lexie Gottsegen, whose grandfather, orthodontist Marshall Gottsegen, did the braces for Peyton and Eli.
“It’s really exciting to know we have distinguished alumni like Peyton and Eli and Odell Beckham,” Lexie said. “It’s inspiring to all of us.”
It certainly is to junior Miles Lapeyre, who this fall will be going into his third season as Newman’s starting quarterback.
That’s the same number of years that Peyton started.
“It’s pretty cool to be part of the legacy of the Mannings,” Lapeyre said. “I don’t know if it’s an extra responsibility, because that’s a high standard.
“But Peyton and Eli have come here and talked to us about how much Newman means to them. It’s awesome to think I’m in the same position.”
The conventional wisdom is that win or lose, Super Bowl 50 will be Peyton’s final game.
Stewart said he isn’t sure but he would like Manning’s family, which includes wife Ashley and twins Marshall and Mosley, to return to New Orleans, unless other interests intervene.
“You know,” Stewart said. “I think we might find a way to get those kids into Newman.
“It would be great.”