Manning: 'No one loved ... being a Giant more than me'

Reuters

Eli Manning said farewell to the New York Giants on Friday in an emotional retirement ceremony at the team's training facility.

Joined by his wife, their four children and his parents, Manning reflected on a 16-year career that included Super Bowl championships following the 2007 and 2011 seasons.

"No one loved and appreciated being a Giant more than me. And that will never change," said Manning, 39, a two-time Super Bowl MVP.

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Manning was the No. 1 pick of the 2004 draft, selected by the San Diego Chargers even though he said he'd never play for the team. A draft-day trade sent Manning to New York for fellow quarterback Philip Rivers.

A standing-room only crowd included Ernie Accorsi, the general manager who pulled off the trade, former coach Tom Coughlin and numerous former teammates. The ceremony began with a video that included clips of Manning on draft day and featured highlights of his career and his philanthropic efforts.

Before he introduced Manning, Giants co-owner John Mara said the team will induct Manning into its Ring of Honor during the 2020 season, adding no Giants player "ever will wear No. 10 again."

"This is certainly a day of very mixed emotions for us," Mara said. "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 could ask a player to be both on and off the field for the last 16 years. Yet we're also very happy to that we get to be here to celebrate that incredible career and we're also able to witness one of the greatest players in franchise history be able to leave the game on his own terms, having played his whole career with the Giants, something that doesn't always happen in this business."

Manning said despite playing in the spotlight, he didn't change who he was when he arrived from Ole Miss.

"From the very first moment, I did it my way. I couldn't be someone other than who I am," he said. "Undoubtedly I would've made the fans, the media and 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 learned to appreciate that."

Manning, raised in New Orleans, said he and his family will continue to live in the New York area and that he isn't sure what the future holds. He said he planned to talk with Mara about a role with the team down the road. Until then, he said he was looking forward "to a little down time" and spending time with his family, which includes serving as an assistant coach on his daughter's third-grade basketball team.

Manning wraps up his career with a 117-117 record as a starter, having completed 60.3 percent of his passes for 57,023 yards, 366 touchdowns and 244 interceptions, with a passer rating of 84.1. His best season came in 2011, when he threw for 4,933 yards, 29 touchdowns and 16 interceptions while averaging a career-high 8.1 yards per attempt.

The all-time leader in franchise history in virtually every passing category, Manning also ranks first in games played, 20 ahead of Michael Strahan.

--Field Level Media

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