*Giants' quarterback Eli Manning called TE Evan Engram and QB Davis Webb to congratulate them and welcome them to New York: *
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J – Davis Webb was a member of the Giants organization for just a few minutes when he received his first instructions from the team’s most prominent player.
Eli Manning called Davis soon after the Giants selected the University of California quarterback last week in the third round of the NFL Draft.
“I just wanted to welcome him to the team, let him know if he has any questions or needs anything in the next few days, I was here for him,” Manning said. “He responded to that with, ‘Yes, sir.’ I told him we were off to a bad start. Please do not refer to me as sir. I appreciate the manners, but we’re teammates. I was always taught the same thing. Anyone older than me, I have to call them sir. But hopefully, we straightened that out.”
Webb’s show of respect is understandable, considering in January he turned 22 three weeks after Manning flipped to 36. But age concerns neither Manning nor the Giants. After the Giants chose Webb with the 87th overall pick, general manager Jerry Reese said, “We hope that Eli plays for a long time for us. Eli is our quarterback and we still think that he can play at a high level.”
Manning expects to do exactly that. Although the talk since the draft is that his eventual successor will soon be in the building, Manning goes about his business as he always has, participating in the Giants’ offseason program and doing everything he can to be at his peak physically and mentally when training camp opens in July.
His offseason off-the-field regimen also remains the same. Manning is immersed in numerous charities and community causes, and he doesn’t retreat in the months when he’s not in uniform. Indeed, Manning’s current schedule loosely replicates his in-season calendar; he works all week and has a big event on Sunday. During the autumn months, Manning plays games. In the spring, he gives his time to causes close to his heart.
Last week, for the 10th consecutive year, he was the celebrity chairman for the March for Babies walk in Manhattan. On Sunday, he will attend the fifth annual NBC 4 New York & Telemundo 47 Health & Fitness Expo at MetLife Stadium. More specifically, he will visit with youngsters and their families who are Tackle Kids Cancer All-Stars. Manning has played a leading role in supporting the Tackle Kids Cancer initiative at Hackensack UMC. Last September, he launched “Eli’s Challenge,” encouraging schools, scout troops, sports teams and community groups to raise money. Through events such as bake sales and car washes, more than $150,000 – plus $100,000 from Manning – will go to Tackle Kids Cancer. On Sunday, Manning will thank many of those who raised the money.
“The whole campaign with Tackle Kids Cancer has been better than expected,” Manning said. “The amount of people in their communities fundraising and setting up programs to raise money has been incredible. You hear a lot of stories about kids setting up bake sales, or doing something because their buddy is dealing with cancer. So many people are affected by a child with cancer. It definitely hits a lot of hearts. This is an opportunity to thank all those people for all their hard work and everything they did. And it’s an opportunity for the kids to come out and have a great day in MetLife Stadium.”
On Monday, Manning will be back in the weight room and on the field at the Quest Diagnostics Training Center as the Giants continue their offseason program. By rule, he must be out of the facility on Friday, when Webb and the rest of the rookies begin their minicamp. After the camp, the full squad is permitted to work together.
“I really don’t know much about Davis,” Manning said. “I know he started off at Texas Tech and transferred to Cal his senior year. I know he’s a big kid and it sounds like he has a strong arm. I know a few of the other names and several other quarterbacks that were in the draft. A couple of them I had met before at our (Manning family) passing camp in (Louisiana in) the summer. Several have been to that. You get to know them a little bit and watch them in college. I look forward to meeting Davis, welcoming him to the team and see if he needs any help from me. I’m always happy to give it.”
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Manning is more familiar with the Giants’ first-round selection, tight end Evan Engram. Both played collegiate football at the University of Mississippi.
“I know Evan a little bit, I’ve thrown with him over the years at Ole Miss,” Manning said. “I’ve watched him play, obviously. I know he’s a heck of an athlete that can really run, stretch the field, catch the ball well. Every coach and person I’ve talked to said he’s a great kid, a hard worker that plays the right way, acts the right way, and will be a great addition to the team. I’m excited about adding another weapon to the offense and look forward to him coming in and helping us out.”
Engram caught 162 passes in four seasons at Ole Miss, including 65 in 2016 when he scored eight touchdowns. He will join Odell Beckham, Jr., Sterling Shepard and Brandon Marshall to give Manning an exciting quartet of targets.
“I think we have a lot of weapons,” Manning said. “Some of it is you want to get specific guys in certain places, and have them use their abilities to our advantage or have them create matchups. We should be able to run our base plays and should be able to go through our progressions. Hopefully the guys that should be winning those one-on-one matchups are winning them. It is exciting to have what we think are quality players. Now we have to get to work. We have to be able to get on the same page and complete the passes, make the plays, run the ball, protect and do all the little things correctly to give us a chance to be successful. Just because we have good players doesn’t automatically mean things become easy. It’s about execution, being on the same page and doing everything correctly.”
As he did with Webb, Manning tried to call Engram after he was drafted by the Giants. Contacting draft choices has become part of Manning’s springtime routine.
“I’ve been doing that the last five, six, seven years,” he said. “Try and get a few numbers, especially for a guy I know a little bit in Evan. I couldn’t reach him by phone, so I sent him a text and congratulated him. I’ll call him in the next few days and just catch up with him. I’ll let him know if he needs anything, let me know.”
Engram is also 22. He celebrated his 10th birthday on Sept. 2, 2004, the same day Manning threw for 99 yards in the Giants’ final preseason game of his rookie season. Manning has been the Giants’ oldest and longest-tenured player for some time. But isn’t it a bit strange playing with teammates who are so much younger than he?“
No, it really isn’t, because that’s who I’ve been working with these last few years,” Manning said. “Whether it’s Sterling Shepard (who is 25) or Odell Beckham (24), and now these guys. That’s who I work with. I’m around young people and that makes me feel young. Sometimes I think I’m the same, or just a few years older than them, maybe. It’s fun. It energizes me to get a young guy in and get him up to speed. Just see how much we can throw at him and what he can retain. See how quickly we can get him playing at a high level.”
Manning is preparing for his 14th season. He remembers the challenges he faced as a rookie, and has watched succeeding classes of newcomers confront the same obstacles. The players reporting next week will no different, and Manning believes the tests are the same, regardless of position.
“I think it’s the same for all the players,” he said. “It’s about learning the system, learning your teammates and earning the respect from your teammates that you come in here and earn your role on the team with your preparation, hard work and commitment. That’s what every guy has to do. They have to come in and prove it in practice and in preseason games. That they can make the plays and that they’re going to be committed to doing all the right things.”
As a team captain and leader, Manning can help all of them accelerate the process – especially Webb.
“In the quarterback room, a lot of times you only have three quarterbacks and a couple of coaches,” he said. “It’s always a tight room. Communication is so important. I’m constantly communicating with the coaches and with the other players. I’m not a coach. I let the coaches do the coaching. I’m always happy to lend a hand. If they have any questions, it’s always good to be on the same page. Anything I’ve learned or know, I’m always willing to flesh it out or lend a hand. When the quarterbacks are in there and I see something that might give a young guy help, I’ve always done that in the past. All the guys, I’ve always had a good relationship and good friendship with all the quarterbacks in there. Nothing will change with that.”
As long as Webb doesn't call him sir.
View photos of California QB Davis Webb