Photo by Keith Allison, Wikimedia Commons
Eli Manning’s career could be described as joyful.
Manning gave Giants fans the joy of two Super Bowl championships, in 2008 (XLII) and 2012 (XLVI). He is one of just five players to win multiple Super Bowl MVP awards.
“It’s impossible to explain the joy I’ve experienced as a Giant. I don’t have any regrets, and I won’t look in the rearview mirror,” said Manning at his retirement press conference Friday.
“From the very first moment, I did it my way,” Manning said “I couldn’t be someone other than who I am. Undoubtedly, I would have made the fans, the media, and even the front office more comfortable if I was more of a ‘rah-rah guy,’ but that’s not me. Ultimately, I choose to believe that my teammates and the fans learned to appreciate that. They knew what they got was pure, unadulterated Eli.”
Manning said he always wanted to use his platform as a professional football player to ensure that others experience joy too. And hope. His philanthropic efforts include work with pediatric cancer patients, premature babies, and families across the New York metropolitan area.
For his charitable work and how he has conducted himself on and off the field, Manning is the winner of the 2020 Athletes in Action Bart Starr Award. The award honors Starr’s lifelong commitment to serving as a positive role model to his family, teammates, and community. Manning will receive the award at Athletes In Action annual Super Bowl Breakfast in Miami on Super Bowl weekend. Manning’s older brother, Peyton, won the award in 2015.
“It really is an honor to win this award,” Manning said to Starr’s wife when she called him to tell him he won.
Athletes In Action is an international nonprofit that equips athletes, coaches, and others to grow in their relationship with Jesus, and to pour into others’ lives.
Manning has given his time to organizations like the March of Dimes and Eli’s Challenge, an initiative he helped create with Tackle Kids Cancer at Hackensack University Medical Center, where he formed a friendship with a little girl from Wyckoff, Rebecca Salmins.
“You put yourself in the shoes of the parents and what you’d be doing and what you’d be feeling,” Manning said in 2017. “It’s the right thing to be helping other people, the right thing to do to help families who are going through a tough time. If you’re going to be a leader on the field, you need to a leader off the field.”
For his charitable work, Manning was awarded the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award in 2017.
In 2018, Manning recorded a special message for the victims and families of East Brook Middle School in Paramus after a fatal bus crash. A teacher and student died in the accident.
“I just wanted to reach out to everyone at East Brook Middle School that everyone on the Giants is thinking about you and praying for you during this tough time,” Manning said. “Stay together, stay close, rely on each other and you’ll get through this.”
The Chargers drafted Manning in 2004, but traded him to the Giants. For New York, he started 210 consecutive games, and never missed a game because of an injury. He finished his career with 57,023 passing yards and 366 touchdowns.
Perhaps what he’ll be best known for on the field is defeating the New England Patriots twice in the Super Bowl. Each win had one of the most memorable catches by a Giant player in the franchise’s long and storied history. In 2008, he connected with David Tyree for the legendary “Helmut Catch.” In 2012, Manning threaded the needle for an improbable pass down the sideline to Mario Manningham.
“This is certainly a day of very mixed emotions for us,” said John Mara, the president, CEO, and co-owner of the Giants. “It’s sad in one sense, because we’re seeing the end of an incredible playing career and saying goodbye to someone who has been everything you can ask a player to be both on and off the field.”
By Daniel Hubbard, staff writer