Professional football player
Addresses: Office—c/o New York Football Giants, Giants Stadium, East Rutherford, NJ 07073.
S igned to play college football at the University of Mississippi, 1998; became starting quarterback at the University of Mississippi, 2001; drafted number one overall in the National Football League (NFL) draft, 2004; signed with the New York Giants and became starting quarterback, 2004; won Super Bowl XLII, 2008.
T he winner of the Most Valuable Player Award at the 2008 Super Bowl, Eli Manning is the All-Star quarterback for the New York Giants. Manning led his team to victory over the New England Patriots, who had not previously lost a game in the 2007-08 season and playoffs. The six-foot, four-inch tall, 205pound Manning had played college football at the University of Mississippi, also known as Ole Miss, was the son of former National Football League (NFL) quarterback Archie Manning, and the brother of Super Bowl-winning quarterback Peyton Manning.
Born on January 3, 1981, in New Orleans, Louisiana, Manning was the son of Archie and his wife, Olivia. The youngest of three brothers, he was ob-sessed with football from an early age. He practiced the quarterback’s five-step drop from the age of five, and helped his elder brothers with their game. While football was his focus, Manning was also interested in other sports and played baseball as well as basketball by the time he reached high school.
Manning attended Isidore Newman High School in New Orleans, where he was a stand-out football player who started for three seasons and threw more than 7,000 yards more than the course of his high school career. As a senior, Manning led his team to an 11-1 record and the state quarterfinals. His personal statistics were also impressive, completing 134 of 229 passes for 2,336 yards and 29 touchdowns. He received more than 100 college football scholarship offers, but his choice was simple.
While his elder brother, Peyton, had declined to follow in his father’s footsteps and played at the Uni- versity of Tennessee, Manning verbally committed to play for his father and elder brother Cooper’s alma mater, the University of Mississippi (known as Ole Miss), at the end of 1998. Manning began attending the school in the fall of 1999. During his redshirt freshman year, Manning faced some off-field challenges as he was arrested for public drunk-ness, failure to comply, and possession of alcohol by a minor in February of 2000.
After serving as a backup who saw little playing time his first eligible playing year, Manning was named the Rebels starting quarterback for the 2001 season after stepping in unexpectedly in the team’s bowl game at the end of the previous season. His first significant playing time for Ole Miss came in the 2000 Music City Bowl when he was sent in at the beginning of the fourth quarter. At the time, Ole Miss trailed the University of West Virginia 49-16. Under Manning’s guidance, the Rebels scored three times as he threw for 167 yards. While Ole Miss still lost, the final score was a more palatable 49-38.
When Manning took over as Ole Miss’s quarterback, he was inevitably measured up against his father, considered the greatest quarterback ever to play at the school. Manning shook off comparisons, telling Doug Segrest of the Birmingham News “As long as I’m playing football, I’ll hear the comparisons. It’s not something I worry about. I try to be my own man. I can be a leader on this team. But if I’m a leader, it’s because of what I’ve done here with my teammates. Not what anyone else has done before me.”
Manning lived up to the hype in his first starting game against Murray State in September of 2001. He set several school records in the 49-14 victory with 18 completed passes and five touches in the game. Manning continued to have an impressive playing career over the next three seasons. In his senior season in 2003, he threw for 3,341 yards and 27 touchdowns, leading his team to a 9-3 record and a berth in the Cotton Bowl. He finished third for the Heisman Trophy for the 2003 season, and won several awards, including the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award and the Maxwell Award. By the time his career at Ole Miss ended, he held 54 team records.
Based on his pedigree and college career, Manning was a highly touted NFL prospect. He was expected to be selected number one overall, but that pick was held by the San Diego Chargers. Manning and his people made it clear that he would not sign with the Chargers and would sit out the whole season if necessary, but the team selected him anyway. Less than an hour later, San Diego traded Manning to the New York Giants for another highly touted quarterback draftee, Philip Rivers, and three draft picks. Manning soon signed a six-year deal with New York worth $74 million, including incentives and a $20 million signing bonus.
Playing for the Giants presented new challenges for Manning, including the pressures of being part of one of the largest media markets in the world. His rookie year was difficult as he adjusted to the level of play in the NFL. After backing up Kurt Warner to start the season, Manning was named the team’s starter for the last seven games of the 2004 season, winning only one of them, showing both moments of brilliance and making huge mistakes. By the end of this trying season, he completed only 95 of 197 passes for 1,043 yards.
Despite such setbacks, Manning remained even-keeled and sure of himself. He told Aaron Kurlioff of the New Orleans Times-Picayune, “This is something new for me, where I haven’t played the way I’ve wanted to. But you know, it’s just a part of learning. It’s a part of getting a feel for this game, the NFL. It’s not something that can be fixed overnight, where the next day you just understand everything. It’s a process of getting better. And that’s my concern right now.”
Manning improved greatly in his second year, playing with more confidence and taking charge as the quarterback. He started all 16 games in 2005, seemingly progressing in each one of them. He ultimately completed 294 of 557 passes for 3,762 yards. While Manning managed only six touchdowns as a rookie, he had 24 touchdowns in 2005. He was still learning, however, as he also had 17 interceptions. Despite uneven numbers, Manning led the Giants to an 11-5 record, their division title, and an appearance in the post-season.
In 2006, Manning also started 16 games, completing 201 of 522 passes for 3,244 for 24 touchdowns and 18 interceptions. One standout from the season was a September game in which he faced his brother Peyton’s team, the Indianapolis Colts, for the first time. Manning’s Giants lost to his brother’s Colts, 26-21. Despite this loss, Manning was emerging as a usually strong, sometimes erratic, quarterback who played smart, although his team often did not always reach his level of play. The Giants made the post-season as a wild card, but lost to the Philadelphia Eagles.
While the Giants had personnel uncertainties and were not a lock to make the playoffs coming into 2007, Manning continued to be a steady performer. He started all 16 games, completing 297 of 529 passes for 3,336 yards. Yet Manning threw 23 touch-downs and 20 interceptions on the season. He played well in the last regular season game against the New England Patriots, but New York still lost 38-35. Despite an uneven ten win and six loss season, the Giants made the post-season again as the wild card.
In this post-season, Manning gained confidence as he led his team to repeated victories. First, the Giants defeated the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the wild card game, 24-14, then bested the Dallas Cowboys 21-17. Manning shined in critical situations in the latter game, despite playing with a sore shoulder. Reaching Super Bowl XLII by defeating the Green Bay Packers in the NFC (National Football Conference) championship game, Manning and the Giants were the underdogs to the New England Patriots, who had not lost a game all season long. Despite the odds, Manning led New York to a 17-14 victory and was named the game’s most valuable player.
The victory did not change Manning. He told Mark McGuire of the Albany Times Union, “I guess you’re a Super Bowl champion. That’s the difference. It doesn’t change my attitude or my personality or my goals for next season.” Manning’s life did change in one way after the end of the season. He married his college girlfriend, Abby McGrew, in Mexico in April of 2008.
Manning was ready for the next season, and planned on taking the same approach to return to the Super Bowl. Arthur Staple of the Calgary Herald quoted him as saying “Just because you have success and you win a championship doesn’t mean you stop for a year, or you become content with what you’ve done. If anything, I think it should make you strive even harder or more to try and get here again . Last year is behind you, and we’ve celebrated for that month or two that you have off, and now it’s back to work to see if you can do it again.”
Associated Press, December 18, 1998; August 15, 2001; April 21, 2008.
Atlanta Journal-Constitution, December 13, 2003, p. 3C.
Birmingham News (Birmingham, AL), May 27, 2001; September 6, 2001.
Boston Herald, January 29, 2008, p. 70. Business Wire, December 15, 2003.
Calgary Herald (Calgary, Alberta, Canada), February 5, 2008, p. E6.
Houston Chronicle, January 1, 2004, p. 4.
Los Angeles Times, January 6, 2008, p. D1; February 3, 2008, p. D13; February 4, 2008, p. D11.
New York Post, September 21, 2005, p. 74.
New York Times, January 6, 2006, p. D1; September 11, 2006, p. D1; September 19, 2006, p. D1; December 12, 2006, p. D1.
Times-Picayune (New Orleans, LA), April 25, 2004, sec. National, p. 1; December 18, 2004, sec. Sports, p. 1; July 9, 2005, sec. Sports, p. 1.
Times-Union (Albany, NY), February 5, 2008, p. B1. University Wire, February 4, 2000.
USA Today, December 22, 2004, p. 6C.
“Eli Manning,” NFL.com, http://www.nfl.com/players/elimanning/profile?id=MAN473170 (May 19, 2008).