Once a Giant, Always a Giant, Only a Giant: Eli Manning Says Goodbye
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Eli Manning might not have won as many games as he wanted during his 16-year career, but ask any of his former teammates who attended—and ask any of his former teammates in attendance and the scores more who couldn't make it to East Rutherford, but who were watching from where ever they were--as he said goodbye for the final time as an active member of the New York Giants. But those he was able to win--and his entire Hall of Fame career--was one that played the way he wanted.
“The joy I've experienced being a Giant 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, even the front office more comfortable if I was a more rah-rah guy, but that's not me. Ultimately, I choose to believe that my teammates and the fans learn to appreciate that they knew what they got was pure, unadulterated. Eli.”
Eli Manning Retires
What the Giants organization and fan base got was a young man who, as the No. 1 overall pick in the 2004 draft already had high expectations placed on his shoulders only to see them increased tenfold when then Giants general manager Ernie Accorsi engineered what team president John Mara characterized as “probably the best trade in franchise history.”
But none of that mattered to Manning then, just as none of that mattered to him as his career was winding down. What mattered most to him was going through the rigors of the preparation—the off-season weight lifting, the endless film study, the practices that saw the plays designed by the coaches start to come to life and then after the game, and the ability to have a beer with his teammates after a game--that Manning enjoyed most.
Those lessons—especially when things weren’t going as expected—are what Manning openly embraced to grow from a boy to a Mann, whose No. 10 will never be worn again by any other Giant and whose five-year wait for Pro Football Hall of Fame consideration has begun in earnest.
“There were tough times that I learned and grew from, but I always knew the level of effort and sacrifice that my teammates and coaches made," he said while on a stage located directly under the two Super Bowl banners that he helped bring the franchise. "We did all we could do every week. I choose to leave this game with only positive memories.”
It is those good memories that he takes forward with him into retirement. Manning said he hasn’t ruled out exploring a possible role with the Giants organization, of whom he said he still has many friends.
He also said he and his young family—wife Abby, daughters Ava, Lucy, and Carolina and son Charlie—plan to remain in the area where they will continue their philanthropic work.
“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," he said.
"Since I've only been here, I'm biased when I say that the New York Giants are the greatest organization in the NFL and how they treat players, coaches, and personnel, the teams driving commitment to win football games.
“It's been an honor to be a part of this family, and I hope that I've represented the organization in the way that you wanted me to. From my first day, to my last, for most of my life, people have called me easy. Believe me; there is nothing easy about today. Wellington Mara always said, ‘Once a Giant, always a Giant.’
“For me, it's only a Giant.”