Eli's community impact felt despite not winning Man of the Year

Posted Feb 6, 2016

Eli Manning was a finalist for the 2016 NFL Man of the Year award, which was won by 49ers WR Anquan Boldin

SAN FRANCISCO – The Giants will have to wait at least another year for their first Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year.

Eli Manning, the two-time Super Bowl MVP who recently completed his 12th season as the team’s quarterback, was one of three finalists for the award. But San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Anquan Boldin received the award at the Fifth Annual NFL Honors awards show here on Saturday night.

The drought continues – no Giants player has been named the league’s Man of the Year in the 46-year history of the award.

The award, presented by Nationwide, recognizes an NFL player for excellence on and off the field. It was established in 1970, and renamed in 1999 after the late Hall of Fame Chicago Bears running back Walter Payton.

The other finalist was New Orleans Saints tight end Ben Watson.

Eli’s older brother Peyton, who will play Sunday in Super Bowl 50, was a co-winner of the award with New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees in 2005.

“I consider this the NFL’s highest honor,” commissioner Roger Goodell said during the show. When the past winners of the audience stood up on Goodell’s request, they received a long ovation.
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 NFL will make a $50,000 donation to a charity of Boldin’s choice.

Manning, who has been friends with both Boldin and Watson since they trained together in Florida in 2004, said several times this week that all three nominees are winners.

Manning’s achievements on the field are well-known. He owns every significant Giants career passing record, and led the team to a pair of Super Bowl triumphs. In 2015, he started all 16 games for the 11th consecutive season, and increased his starting streak to 183 regular-season games in a row. Manning set franchise records for pass attempts (618) and completions (387), and his yardage (4,432) and touchdown passes totals (35) were the second-highest in Giants history.

Off the field, Manning has long been one of the Giants – and the NFL’s -- most generous and community-minded players. He has a long list of organizations with which he’s long been associated, and he's constantly looking to get involved with new groups. The former includes the March of Dimes, Guiding Eyes for the Blind, and the Red Cross. He serves as a member of the American Red Cross' Celebrity Cabinet, urging people to perform extraordinary life-saving acts in dire circumstances through the assistance of the Red Cross

Manning is particularly dedicated to helping children. Each year, he frequently makes hospital visits to sick children, usually quietly and under the radar. Indeed, Manning might have been a finalist for this award earlier if he was interested in publicizing his visits.

“A lot of times when I visit a hospital, I really would rather just go unannounced and call them 30 minutes before I show up, and go visit the kids,” Manning said. “I’m not doing it to try to get an award, that’s not what I’m up for. Sometimes you walk into the room and an eight-year old boy sees a camera, he’s not going to say anything. He’s nervous, he doesn’t feel well, that’s not what he wants. I really would rather go in and just have a conversation or have a talk or see if I can lift his spirits and get him to laugh. If he’s excited - if he is Giants fan or fan of me, let him show that excitement rather than be nervous for that environment. I’m not doing it for show.”

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 over the past seven years. He also spearheads “Tackle Kids' Cancer,” an initiative with Hackensack University Medical Center. Prior to kicking off an extensive media campaign to raise awareness of 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.

Manning was a college star at the University of Mississippi, and is sensitive to the needs of children in that state. When he realized Mississippi – where he still owns a home – had only one children's hospital in Mississippi, 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 in five years. 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.

It is possible he will kick off a similar endeavor in New Jersey.

“I don’t know if a clinic is in the works in (that) area,” Manning said. “I kind of have been working with Hackensack and just ask them what they need. What do they want, what are they looking for, and how can I help out? In Mississippi, they needed a new children’s clinic so I said, ‘Yeah, let’s do that.’ They gave me several options of what they were looking for, what they needed, and that’s the one I picked in Mississippi. In Hackensack, it started out with the Tackle Kids Cancer and the kid’s cancer clinic was what I wanted to be part of so I joined with that team.”