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Eli Manning reveals meaning of "Omaha"

Posted Jun 12, 2015

QB Eli Manning, speaking at the Giants Town Hall presented by NewYork-Presbyterian, discussed the meaning and origins of the famous call

The Manning brothers are from New Orleans, but everyone always wants to know about Omaha.

Despite there being no NFL team in the state, Nebraska’s largest city has drawn the attention of football fans everywhere. Eli Manning and his older brother and fellow quarterback, Peyton, used ‘Omaha’ for years as a pre-snap call that has grown into its own legend. 

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The phenomenon even went so far as networks counting the number of times it was barked out in a game. For example, during Peyton’s run to the Super Bowl with the Broncos a few years ago, the microphones picked up the five-time league MVP saying ‘Omaha’ a total of 44 times.

And now, after all the buildup, Eli let everyone in on the family secret Tuesday night at the Beacon Theatre in Manhattan during the Giants Town Hall presented by NewYork-Presbyterian.

“So Omaha was in the playbook,” Eli explained, sitting onstage at the special event for season-ticket holders with wide receiver Victor Cruz, linebacker Jon Beason, former Giants offensive lineman David Diehl and host Bob Papa.

“There was actually a sheet that said ‘Omaha’ at the top, and basically ‘Omaha’ was maybe we change the play, or maybe when I was changing protection, or Diehl had to tie his shoe or something and was taking forever and the play clock’s running down. And ‘Omaha’ just told everybody to put their hand in the ground, shut up, and the ball’s about to be snapped.

“So I would say ‘Omaha’ and I would say it again and then say ‘set hut’ and do whatever you think you need to be doing and let’s go play football.”

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That was just one of the many highlights from the night, which also included Giants president and chief executive officer John Mara, head coach Tom Coughlin, and general manager Jerry Reese.

Here are some other memorable moments from the Q&A sessions with fans:

In his opening remarks, Mara said, “Not many teams can brag about what we can brag about. I’m sure a lot of you are second-generation, even third-generation ticket holders, and I can’t tell you how much that means to me. It meant so much to my father, and it means so much to our entire family and we really appreciate your support.”

On the best advice his father, the late Wellington Mara, ever gave him, Mara said:

“That would take me a long time to answer that one. But one of the things that I learned from him is that he responded to every single letter he received from a fan. He used to tell me how important that was. If people care enough to sit down and type out a letter to you, you can at least give them the courtesy of a response.”
On the feeling of winning a championship, Manning said:

“The best way to explain it is: right when you win a Super Bowl, what do you do? You just run around aimlessly looking for someone to hug. Rarely do you ever get that opportunity or you ever have that feeling where you’re like, ‘Just hug me, somebody.’”

On what led him to football, Cruz said:

“I played little league football when I was 11-years-old. I just played it because my dad was like, ‘You’re playing football.’ I pretty much had no choice. I played, I did well, I got to high school, and I was like, ‘Man, forget that, I’m going to play basketball.’ So I thought I was a basketball player for my freshman and sophomore years until my high school football coach, who’s like a second dad to me now, he looked at me and was like, ‘You know they give out double the scholarships for football than they do basketball, right?’ And I kind of looked in the mirror, saw I was about 5-11 ¾. I’m 6-1 with cleats on, though. And I was like, ‘I got to play football.’ So I started playing football, and the rest is history as they say.”

On the same topic, Manning said:

“Growing up I tried to play other positions. I was kind of like, ‘You know what, I’m tired of playing quarterback, I’m going to play receiver at recess with [the] kids.’ I was too slow to get open and the other quarterbacks couldn’t throw it very well, and so I said, ‘This is boring, no fun, I don’t get to do anything.’ At quarterback, you’ve got the ball in your hand every play and you’ve got to decide who to throw it to. It was my favorite sport. I love playing it. I love every aspect of it.”