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Eli Manning played more games in a New York Giants uniform (236) than any other player in their history. He rarely showed much emotion while out on the field or in the locker room. He kept his emotions in check and put life — and football — into perspective. They called him “Easy E.”
This Sunday, however, Manning will be back in front of the fans for the first time since his retirement after the 2019 season when the Giants install him in their Ring of Honor and retire his No. 10 jersey.
The outpouring of affection from the fans might just be a little much for even Eli to take this time around.
“I appreciate this honor. I know it is extremely special,” Manning told reporters on Thursday. “I think I still try to just think back and think about all of the wonderful times, all the wonderful coaches that I’ve had in my life, the wonderful teammates that I’ve had in my life. Without them, without their mentorship, without their friendship and their abilities, this is not possible.
“Even though it is my number, I think it is kind of a celebration of all the teammates and the people who I threw touchdowns to and who blocked for me and the defensive guys who helped us get wins. Football is such a team sport and I always talked about the quarterback probably gets too much credit when you win and maybe too much blame when you lose as well.
“It is such an honor just to have played my 16 years with the New York Giants and to be one of the 12 jerseys retired by this storied franchise. It probably hasn’t kicked in that it’s a reality quite yet.”
That’s typical for Eli. Since he joined the Giants via a draft day trade back in 2004, he’s been on a magical ride. He went from being Ernie Archie’s second son and Peyton’s little brother to a bona fide Hall of Fame talent that led groups of men to championships, forging unforgettable memories and relationships along the way.
And Manning did it with class.
This Sunday, the football world and Giant fans will formally pay him back. It is a well-earned and well-deserved honor. In his presser with the Giants’ beat reporters on Thursday, he continued to deflect from his accomplishments and spread his success out his teammates and coaches. We would expect nothing less from this selfless man.
Manning talked about the origins of his No. 10 jersey and how he became associated with the number.
“When I went to Ole Miss, it was kind of, ‘hey, what numbers are available a little bit?’ They asked me if I wanted to wear 18 at Ole Miss. It was already retired from my Dad wearing it and they said they would take it out of retirement and let me wear it. I said no, I’m not going to do that,” Manning said. “I can’t remember what the options were, maybe 14 or some single-digits, but I’d never been a single-digit number. I’d never worn – I think I’d kind of say I’d never worn No. 10 before. I don’t think I ever had it at any league or level growing up and so I said, I’ll go 10, I kind of like it.
“I picked it from there and wore it all through college and when I got to the Giants, Jeff Feagles was No. 10 and I remember just on the way from where I was drafted, Madison Square Garden to kind of going to Giants Stadium to be welcomed, someone had Feagles on the line and we worked out a deal real quick for a trip to Florida. If it was going to be easy and simple and not a big story then I said I’d do it, but if it was going to be something outrageous, I probably would’ve moved on and found another number. I didn’t know what was available at the time, but it was very easy. I said if I could keep it, I’d like to keep it and the rest is history.”
What Manning didn’t mention was that No. 10 was previously worn by two other prominent Giants — Hall of Fame quarterback Fran Tarkenton in the 1960s and five-time Pro Bowl linebacker Brad Van Pelt in the ’70s and ’80s. It was worn by quarterback Kent Graham in the ’90s and then Feagles before Manning’s arrival.
Now, Manning is about to have that “out-of-body” experience of having that number retired. It was something he did not envision when his career began some seventeen years ago.
“It’s just such a tremendous honor and I’m just honored and kind of speechless about it thinking about that scenario and the fact that that’s happening,” he said. “It was kind of never the thought. When I started my first game 17 years ago versus the Falcons, it was not the thought that, ‘hey, my jersey’s definitely getting retired with the New York Giants. I’ve got this thing figured out.’
“It’s just surreal and to go there and travel and go to the game that Week 1 and see Giants No. 10 jerseys – as I was driving, I always see a couple other friends and teammates jerseys still around. I take a picture and send it to them. If I see a No. 60 or a No. 51 and (Zak) DeOssie or Chris Snee and some of those guys, or Brandon Jacobs, so it’s still out there and still a lot of fans. It’s going to be special. It’s going to be a very emotional day and kind of one last farewell to all those fans wearing No. 10 and all them that supported me during my time with the Giants and continued to support me. I just appreciate their loyalty and their support through all these years.”
On behalf of Giant fans everywhere, you are very welcome.