The Eli Manning Era is officially over. The legendary New York Giants quarterback retired from the NFL today after sixteen historic seasons. Through all the ups and downs that this franchise has gone through over the past two decades, one man has been there to guide us through it all.
A true warrior, a true professional, Eli Manning has been there for Giants fans through everything. He always handled the media with class and professionalism. He always treated fans with respect and integrity. And he always treated his time in New York with gratitude and appreciation. And, Eli, we are grateful and appreciative of you, too, and everything you’ve given this organization and this fanbase through the years.
Today, we celebrate Eli Manning’s legendary career. As he wraps up his final press conference, teary-eyed Giants fans can look back on these past sixteen years of highlights and accomplishments with real Giants Pride. From the 2004 NFL Draft-day trade that started it all to Eli’s win against the Dolphins in his final career start, nearly two decades of fond memories were filled thanks to Eli Manning.
Eli’s Impact On My Life
This is different for me. Usually, I present unbiased statistics and quotes to inform Giants Nation of what is going on with their team, always speaking in third-person. But, today, I’m going to tell this story from my perspective. I am going to try my best to capture what Eli Manning means to me.
I’m sure many of you can relate: Eli Manning is the reason that I fell in love with football.
Eli’s sixteen-year career wrapped up today. I am an eighteen-year-old boy that grew up knowing only Eli as the face of the Giants. It has been hard to cope with these past few seasons. There has been a lot of losing, a lot of fans turning their backs on my quarterback. Sure, some arguments were justified. But the disrespect that this Mann received throughout his career always has and always will truly baffle me. There is no doubt that this man belongs in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and when he gets there, I will be there.
Why Longevity Is Important
People (like Pro Football Focus) like to argue that “longevity shouldn’t be a Hall of Fame-worthy trait.” Let me try to explain why that argument is cazzate:
Eli Manning’s longevity allowed me to grow up with an additional father-figure in my life. Don’t get me wrong; my father is a huge part of my life. I have two incredible parents that I love dearly, and that have shaped me into the young man that I am today. But Eli Manning was an extra role model in my life that taught me multiple important life lessons.
I know there are plenty of Giants fans around my age who grew up watching Eli and fell in love with football because of him, just like I did. He embodies the word class and sets examples to follow for young men, some of which might not have a father figure in their lives.
It’s not normal to see one man run the show for a decade and a half. Other teams’ fans don’t get to develop connections with their quarterbacks because they’re here and gone after a couple of seasons. This might make it hard for those fans to understand why Eli’s longevity is so important. But the personal connections and life lessons are what make these past sixteen years so special.
Here are some lessons that Eli taught me and many other young Giants fans over the years:
- When you get hit, no matter how hard or how many times, you get up and do your best.
- When everyone tells you you can’t do something, prove them wrong, and do it.
- Help others. Help those in need.
- Treat everyone with class and respect. Even if those two things are not being reciprocated, always be the best man you can be.
Eli’s Greatest On-Field Moments
Some of the fondest memories in my life feature Eli Manning at the center. Of course, Super Bowl XLII, the greatest upset in sports history. “Eli’s Great Escape” out of the pocket that led to “The Helmet Catch” and the Giants’ third Super Bowl victory over a historic 18-0 Patriots team.
Then, he did it again. Eli earned his second Super Bowl MVP taking down the Patriots again in Super Bowl XLVI. I will never forget watching Eli complete the most magnificent throw in Super Bowl history down the left sideline to Mario Manningham. But my favorite Eli Manning moment came two weeks prior: the 2011 NFC Conference Championship game.
The Giants took down the 49ers on the road to go back to the Super Bowl on a last-second field goal by the great Lawrence Tynes. But that game, to me, will always be the Eli Manning game. A game where Eli got whacked over and over. He got pile-driven into the dirt, play after play. Under constant duress, Eli stood strong in the pocket and hung in there to make every play necessary and send the Giants to the Super Bowl.
I will never forget one particular moment from that game: Eli completes a screen pass to Bradshaw and gets driven into the ground by 49ers defender Aldon Smith. What a brutal hit this was. Then, Manning stands up, chin-strap on his nose, shoulder pad hanging out of his jersey, and casually calls a timeout as if nothing strange had happened.
That, to me, is the embodiment of the word toughness in football. Eli put the team on his back in that game. He put the fans on his back. He put the damn city and state on his back and won that football game. One of the most clutch postseason performers in NFL history, Eli always delivered in crunch time.
Man Of The Year
But that’s not all Eli did. He was not just a legend on the field. Manning’s admirable legacy is cemented because of what he has done off the field, in addition to his on-field accomplishments. Eli Manning, the 2016 Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year co-award-winner, is someone to look up to truly.
I would be remiss if I did not mention Manning’s excellent work with charities such as Tackle Kids Cancer, The Jay Fund, Red Cross, and various other organizations. Eli and his wife, Abby, have given and raised millions of dollars fighting for these causes. This work has not gone unrecognized. Manning was named one of the top philanthropists under the age of 40 in 2015 and, as previously mentioned, won the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year award in 2016.
Thank You, Eli
No Giant will ever wear number 10 again. That is Eli’s number, and it always will be. The Giants officially retired the number today during Manning’s press conference. And man, what a beautiful press conference it was. Let’s take a look at some of the best quotes from Eli’s big day:
You can be confident that no one has loved and appreciated wearing the Giants uniform more than I have and that will never change. – Eli Manning
And to the Giants fans, you are definitely unique, but I love you for that. I’m walking away today feeling like a New Yorker. Well, at least a Northeasterner and that says a lot about a guy from New Orleans who went to Ole Miss. – Eli Manning
For most of my life, people have called me Easy. Believe me, this is nothing easy about today. Wellington Mara always said, “Once a Giant, Always a Giant.” For me, it’s ‘Only a Giant.’ – Eli Manning
Eli, you said it best yourself, we are a unique group of fans. Just know, even though we might not have been the best at always showing it, we love you too. And we are eternally grateful. Thank you, Eli.