Q: In your time since you've been retired and as you get ready for this big day, which of course is historic in Giants history and you were never a guy to talk about accolades, but have you had time to reflect on what you've meant to this franchise and this honor that they're bestowing to you Sunday?
A: I appreciate this honor. I know it is extremely special. I think I still try to just think back and think about all of the wonderful times, all the wonderful coaches that I've had in my life, the wonderful teammates that I've had in my life. Without them, without their mentorship, without their friendship and their abilities, this is not possible. Even though it is my number, I think it is kind of a celebration of all the teammates and the people who I threw touchdowns to and who blocked for me and the defensive guys who helped us get wins. Football is such a team sport and I always talked about the quarterback probably gets too much credit when you win and maybe too much blame when you lose as well. It is such an honor just to have played my 16 years with the New York Giants and to be one of the 12 jerseys retired by this storied franchise. It probably hasn't kicked in that it's a reality quite yet.
Q: What would you like your legacy to be when people are looking back on your career with the New York Football Giants?
A: I think just the availability. That's something that I probably take the most pride in. Just the fact that I was there week in and week out every week and to never miss a game because of injury or anything else. I think that was always important to me, too. I think the players responded to that. They took great pride in that and as it went on, they didn't want to be – an offensive line didn't want to be part of the group that got Eli hit or injured to miss a game. The games where I was banged up and I had an injury, I think those next weeks they blocked even harder to say, 'hey, we've got to keep him healthy, and we don't want to make this worse.' I think they saw that. They saw that I wanted to be out there and that I wanted to be out there at practice. I think that was hopefully contagious and the other guys were going to be out there to do everything they could to be there. There's only so much you can control playing football. You cannot control the outcome of every single game. There's too many things that are out of your control, but you can control your desire and your heart and your willingness to do whatever it takes to be there for your team, for your organization and for your teammates.
Q: I'd like to talk about a guy who's obviously very big to you in (Former Giants Head Coach) Tom Coughlin, especially after the news that Coach Coughlin came out with last week with the health issues with his wife. If you don't mind, talk about you're a young pup coming into this league, and Coughlin coached you through everything, your feelings towards him?
A: I can't say enough great things about Coach Coughlin and owe so much of my success to him and just the way he pushed me. He taught me just the importance of preparation and hard work and team above self. Just all the lessons that I learned, and I feel that's one of the great honors and privileges that I had was being able to play under him for 12 seasons. We still talk. We still communicate. I still look at him as a mentor and keep him in my life. I've talked about with him and with Judy (Coughlin) and with everything going on and his life. I've known about it for a long time, and I've seen the struggles that he's going through dealing with that. He all of a sudden kind of has a different role going on right now with him. But I think he as always, he's been open about it and he's talked about it and he's dealing with it and making the best of it.
Q: You just talked about preparation and hard work and that kind of led into what I wanted to ask you about. When you retired, were you prepared for retirement? I mean, had you thought out everything or did you say, 'I'm going to enjoy it and then we'll worry about what happens, happens'?
A: I knew I was ready to retire. That's kind of the only thing I knew was I was done, and I wasn't going to second guess. I wasn't going to look back and worry about it. I knew that I was ready to be done playing football and when I look back on my time, I was just going to reflect on the good moments and the happy moments and the friendships I made, the wins we got to celebrate and remember those things. That was such a strange time and I wanted to take time away. Football takes up a lot of your time during the season, during the offseason, at nights, so I wanted to take the year off and just be around my family and see if there was anything else I wanted to pursue or wanted to be interested in and just kind of step away. With the pandemic, it made it easy to do that because there wasn't many options going on and what I kind of realized is that I still love the game. I still love prepping for it and watching film and analyzing and talking about it. When I'm around people they're like, 'I hate to talk football with you,' and I say, 'that's what I know.' Like I don't know business. I don't know how to read a spreadsheet. I don't know everything going on in the world all over the place, but I know the game of football and I enjoy talking about it. I don't know if I was prepared exactly for everything going on, but I've enjoyed having down time. I've enjoyed coaching my kids in some of their sports leagues and I'm enjoying kind of getting back into the game this fall kind of with the Giants and through doing Monday Night Football with Peyton (Manning). I'm enjoying getting a little taste of it and slowly getting back into it, but not having to give all the time that I used to have to give.
Q: And the commercials?
A: Yeah, I still do commercials and have time for that. Those are always enjoyable, especially if I can do some with my family or with my brothers. I think those are kind of always a way to not kind of take yourself too seriously and a way to show your personality and that was kind of how I did it a little bit while I was playing. Now, I think it's another way just to continue showing the lighter side of things.
Q: When I look at your career, one of the real oddities is that you only had one home playoff win in this stadium where you're now going to have this great moment on Sunday. I'm curious if you think that's odd at all that all your big games just always seemed to not be in this building? The games you're remembered for – the Super Bowls, the NFC Championship Games. It's weird you only had the one home playoff win and kind of what (do) you remember about that game specifically because the Falcons are obviously on the other side? (Falcons Quarterback) Matt Ryan's on the other side of this game just like they were in '11.
A: I don't know why we always seemed to try to make it more difficult on ourselves than it had to be. But that was kind of our style. We liked two-minute drives at the end of the games to win and I guess we just enjoyed kind of creating the drama of football and I think that's what the fans wanted. I think we just tried to please the fans and keep the games interesting (laughs). But yeah, I think it is strange to have one playoff game. I remember that one very well, that one win at home versus Atlanta. It's engrained in the mind and just the feeling of the crowd and of the fans and everyone there. Obviously, we would have liked to have more wins at home during playoffs, but the ones on the road were still pretty special with our teammates and those fans that traveled there for it.
Q: I have a two-part question for you. You referenced working with Peyton, I was wondering if the enjoyment level of broadcasting games with him has exceeded your expectations? And then the second half, what has been the most enjoyable part of retirement for you that has surprised you?
A: I mean, I think I've enjoyed – it was never a goal of mine to get into broadcasting. It wasn't like I got done playing football and I was like, 'I definitely want to hop right in the booth and start calling games.' I kind of didn't necessarily think I would want to do that and a lot of it is because of the traveling and being gone every weekend calling games. That's kind of what I wanted my weekends back. That's something that I thought was a good part of retiring is to be around on weekends and go to sporting events and coach my kids. But I've enjoyed doing a Monday Night (Football). I got to have dinner with my kids on Monday night and then go down and call the game. I've enjoyed that aspect and just getting back into the game, breaking down film, kind of talk Xs and Os with my brother, which he explains but then try to explain that to the fans. I think just doing it in this more relaxed way, right? I don't have to – I don't know the name of every single player on the field. I don't know who the left guard is for the Baltimore Ravens, necessarily. I think just, hey, it's how I would watch a game, what I would say, what I would notice and if I could rewind, I'd want to rewind certain plays to look at things to explain it to someone who might not know what's going on. So, I've enjoyed that, and I think just with retirement, I've enjoyed a lot of it is just kind of being around my kids sporting events. I never really got to do – I missed a lot of those on the weekends over the years and wasn't there to be able to coach or do those things. I think just being a part of that with them and just enjoy being around their friends. I didn't know a lot of their friends and I get to be around them and have some fun with them.
Q: I'm just curious, when you look back on the totality of it all, how much does that first Super Bowl that the game-winning drive there, how much does kind of help create what your legacy has become? I mean, how big a part of that and what do you kind of remember about that 14 years later or so?
A: That whole playoff stretch was probably very important in my career of '07 and Coach Coughlin's. We were probably both on that line of, 'hey, do these guys have what it takes or not?' That stretch of winning those playoff games and going into Green Bay and then of course, going against what could be known as the greatest team of all time in the '07 Patriots team in the Super Bowl and being able to beat them. I think there had been kind of glimpses of good and some bad and all that, some ups and downs. I think that kind of just proved that 'hey, he can play well in the biggest moments.' That's something that we were able to do quite a few times. It was obviously and unbelievable feeling and it's something you share with your teammates. You see your teammates from that '07 team and it was just a very special bond. A lot of us came in together in (Shaun) O'Hara and Chris Snee. I mean, David Diehl had been one year before and Kareem McKenzie had just joined, so you kind of had a lot of guys that were young coming in together – Brandon Jacobs. To kind of stay together and go win a championship was very special and you just had a special connection and bond with those players and those coaches from that season.
Q: They're retiring No. 10; can you take us back to the genesis of it? I know you were 18 in high school and obviously that was retired when you got to college. Do you remember the first time you were given No. 10 and why you picked it or why it was picked for you?
A: Yeah, when I went to Ole Miss, it was kind of, 'hey, what numbers are available a little bit?' They asked me if I wanted to wear 18 at Ole Miss. It was already retired from my Dad wearing it and they said they would take it out of retirement and let me wear it. I said no, I'm not going to do that. I can't remember what the options were, maybe 14 or some single-digits, but I'd never been a single-digit number. I'd never worn – I think I'd kind of say I'd never worn No. 10 before. I don't think I ever had it at any league or level growing up and so I said, I'll go 10, I kind of like it. I picked it from there and wore it all through college and when I got to the Giants, Jeff Feagles was No. 10 and I remember just on the way from where I was drafted, Madison Square Garden to kind of going to Giants Stadium to be welcomed, someone had Feagles on the line and we worked out a deal real quick for a trip to Florida. If it was going to be easy and simple and not a big story then I said I'd do it, but if it was going to be something outrageous, I probably would've moved on and found another number. I didn't know what was available at the time, but it was very easy. I said if I could keep it, I'd like to keep it and the rest is history.
Q: Just kind of curious, when you first come into the league, obviously you don't have expectations. You don't know how things are going to go. You know how you'd like them to go and what not, but when you look back over your career, can you just talk a little bit about the growth you experienced as a person? Not as a football player – we know about the records, but as a person, the maturity that you went through, through the ups and the downs and whatnot.
A: Obviously, you come into the NFL and you're 22 or 23 years old and I think my mindset when I first got there was all of a sudden you come into that locker room and you see Amani Toomer and Michael Strahan and Luke Petitgout and Tiki Barber and these guys who have had success and these guys who are big personalities and these guys who have families and kids. You're like, 'holy cow, I'm not in college anymore.' In college, you're all the same age. You're all kind of going through the same issues and now you're with some grown men. My take was hey, I'm going to keep my head down. I'm going to work hard. I'm going to be in early, I'm going to stay late. I'm going to try to ask good questions when I need to and just try to earn the respect of my teammates by just being dependable, showing up and trying to do all the right things and earn it through just being tough and taking hits and getting up and being there every week. I think that was kind of the mentality all 16 years. I wanted to earn the respect of my teammates. Even year 15 when you have rookies coming in, I wanted them to see how I was working and how I was preparing and how important it was to me. I wanted them to see this a guy who's 15 or 16 years into it and he's still grinding and still asking questions and he's engaged in every meeting. I think that was always the mindset and the mentality. But as you get older you also want to be a mentor and help those younger people learn and have success and to reach their full potential.
Q: You were talking earlier about you knew you were done, but you still wanted to take a year away from football. I'm curious – and I just had one follow after that. I'm curious, if you at the end of that year kind of felt rejuvenated or recharged, would you have considered playing again if the opportunity presented itself?
A: No. I don't think – you've seen a few guys take the year off and come back and Gronk (Buccaneers Tight End Rob Gronkowski) is doing it and Jason Witten did it, but there was no interest in coming back. I saw the hits the quarterbacks were taking, and I said I do not want to experience that anymore. I like how I feel every Monday morning when I wake up. It's not just the hits, it's just everything. I enjoyed the preparation. I could've gotten back into that part, but just the losing, the everything, just the grind of it all. I think I don't know if I could have totally got back into all of that. More just the losses hurt more. They affect your sleep. They affect your week. It affects family life with my wife and kids and it just got too much. I like watching the games and I root for the Giants and I feel for them after a loss. But you know what, I go to bed very easily on Sunday nights and wake up and feel good about the upcoming week, and it's not something that lingers for three or four days like it used to.
Q: Then do you think it is possible that if you guys were winning, you would have continued playing?
A: Well, I mean, hey, with the contracts and the contract was up and it was time to be done. So, I wasn't playing at the level I used to be playing and so it was just time to hang it up and I said I had a good run and now it's time to be done.
Q: Your New York connection with your dad, was there a connection with him that you knew about with the Giants that meant a little bit more for you playing your entire career here?
A: My dad grew up listening to the Giants on the radio just because of Charlie Conerly. Charlie Conerly was a great quarterback and played for Ole Miss and came to the New York Giants and played his 15 years with the Giants at quarterback. I think it's pretty neat, kind of the similarities that Charlie Conerly and I had. I won the Charlie Conerly Award two times when I was at Ole Miss for the best football player in the state of Mississippi and had a friendship with his wife, Perian Conerly who just passed away a few months ago. My dad always kind of knew about the New York Giants growing up and it was one of his dad's favorite teams because of Charlie Conerly. (I) just kind of didn't know all those things really until a little bit later – really, until I got to the Giants and got to talk to him about that and hear some of the stories and learn a little bit more about Charlie Conerly and his playing career with the Giants.
Q: This is after all a jersey retirement celebration, all those years when you saw all the 10s out there and you see them in parks and in malls and certainly at the game, what were you thinking then and what did you think was your obligation to the people wearing the 10s? And now, when you still see them when you go out, I'm sure there's still a lot of them out there, what do you think you'll think about now knowing that there's a 10 there but no one else will ever wear that again
A: It's just such a tremendous honor and I'm just honored and kind of speechless about it thinking about that scenario and the fact that that's happening. It was kind of never the thought. When I started my first game 17 years ago versus the Falcons, it was not the thought that, 'hey, my jersey's definitely getting retired with the New York Giants. I've got this thing figured out.' It's just surreal and to go there and travel and go to the game that Week 1 and see Giants No. 10 jerseys – as I was driving, I always see a couple other friends and teammates jerseys still around. I take a picture and send it to them. If I see a No. 60 or a No. 51 and (Zak) DeOssie or Chris Snee and some of those guys, or Brandon Jacobs, so it's still out there and still a lot of fans. It's going to be special. It's going to be a very emotional day and kind of one last farewell to all those fans wearing No. 10 and all them that supported me during my time with the Giants and continued to support me. I just appreciate their loyalty and their support through all these years.
Photos from the career of two-time Super Bowl MVP quarterback Eli Manning