Each NFL team nominates one player who has had a significant positive impact in his community. Manning was the Giants’ Man of the Year every season from 2007-13.
The other finalists are San Francisco wide receiver Anquan Boldin and New Orleans tight end Benjamin Watson. The winner will be announced during the Fifth Annual NFL Honors awards show, a two-hour primetime special airing nationally on Feb. 6, the night before Super Bowl 50, from 9-11 p.m. ET on CBS.
Each of the 32 team nominees receives a $5,000 donation to their charity of choice. The two runner-ups will receive an additional $6,000 donation to their charity of choice. The winner will receive an additional $50,000 donation to his charity of choice.
If Manning wins, he will be the first Giants player to be selected the NFL Man of the Year in the award’s 46-year history.
“My dad (Archie) played at the same time as Walter Payton, and he has some stories and always talked about what a great person he was,” Manning said when he was named the Giants’ nominee last month. “He was a prankster and just a joy to be around and worked extremely hard and my dad has only great things to say about him. From everything wonderful I’ve heard about him, it’s an honor to receive this award for the Giants team. I’m proud of the work I do, on and off the field.”
Manning has been one of the Giants’ – and the NFL’s – most active players in the community since his rookie season in 2004.
Championing causes that involve children has always been a priority for Manning, and that goal has intensified now that he is the father of three young daughters.
“As my kids get older, I want them to understand the importance of being a part of community, and helping out people that are less fortunate, and how many blessings they have,” he said. “I want them to have that in their life and an understanding of how important it is to be help out other people and different causes.”
Manning has served as the Chair of the New York March for Babies for the past seven years, joining thousands of New Yorkers in the walk in support of March of Dimes. Providing additional access for top sponsors, engaging donors and raising awareness of the organization's platform, Manning’s efforts with March for Babies helped raise more than $25 million. He also spearheads “Tackle Kids' Cancer”, an initiative with Hackensack University Medical Center. Prior to kicking off an extensive media campaign to raise awareness for this cause, Manning spent time with patients and doctors at the hospital's pediatric cancer center, learning more about the greatest needs in cancer research.
When he realized the state of Mississippi – where he attended college and owns a home – had only one children's hospital, Manning and his wife founded the Eli and Abby Manning Children's Clinics in 2007. They kicked off a five-year fundraising campaign that raised almost $3 million. Building on that accomplishment and model, they also created the University of Mississippi Medical Center Manning Family Fund, which received close to $1.5 million in its first year in 2015.
“The clinics are up and running and doing great,” Manning said. “So that’s been very rewarding. We still continue to help out with the hospital, and we have a Manning fund to help with the overall hospital. It’s still important to give back to Mississippi, it’s an important part of my life.
“I get to visit when I get back to Jackson, which is not a whole lot, maybe once a year. But I’ll go, bring some Giants hats, and try to visit some of the kids in the hospital. The good thing about the clinics is getting as many children as possible seen, and hopefully it’s just something minor and they get in and out. Obviously, sometimes they come in for a checkup and there is something more serious and then they’ll get admitted to the hospital. But we’ll go to the hospital and visit some of the patients there and try to lift their spirits a little bit.”
In addition to his work on behalf of children, Manning devotes his time and resources to numerous other initiatives, both in the New York/New Jersey metropolitan area and on a national level. Those efforts include working with the American Red Cross, including collecting and filling an airplane with supplies to fly down to New Orleans to in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and working on an emergency response vehicle in the days after superstorm Sandy; his nearly 10-year relationship with and commitment to Guiding Eyes for the Blind, an organization that trains guide dogs; his participation in the No More campaign; his contribution to Operation Smile's NYC gala; his scholarship endowment at the University of Mississippi; and his fulfillment of numerous Make-A-Wish and Wounded Warrior experiences.
Manning is always looking for other avenues to help people.
“It seems like each offseason I find a new one that’s intriguing to me that I want to help out - different causes and different ways to help out other people,” he said. “A new initiative comes up, or you have a friend, or you have a story, or you know somebody and you want to get involved in another aspect or another opportunity. A lot of them deal with children, helping out sick children and trying to get them back with their families, back home, back in school and living the lives they should be living.”
On the field, Manning had one of his finest seasons in 2015. He set franchise records with 618 pass attempts and 387 completions while throwing for 4,432 yards and a career-high 35 touchdown passes – one shy of the Giants record – and just 14 interceptions.