“From the very first moment, I did it my way. I couldn’t be someone other than who I am … I don’t have any regrets and I won’t look in the rearview mirror,” the longtime New York Giants quarterback, 39, said on Friday while formally announcing his retirement at a press conference.
During the speech, Manning touched on what he’ll miss from his time in the NFL, admitting, “There won’t be any more tunnel moments for me and I’ll truly miss them.”
He continued, “I’ll miss hearing the first roar of the crowd, triggering the knowledge that we had been given one more opportunity to go win a football game.”
Said Manning, “I choose to leave this game with only positive memories — why harp on the not-so-proud moments? … For now, I’ll focus on the touchdowns, the wins.”
Manning spent all 16 seasons with the Giants, and shared on Friday, “It’s rare to have the privilege to play an entire career with one organization. I’m proud to be one of the few.”
He concluded his speech, “For most of my life people have called me easy, believe me there is nothing easy about today.”
Manning also later told reporters during a question and answer session that it was “important for me to go out as a Giant.”
Although Manning began the 2019 season as the team’s starting quarterback, after the Giants lost their first two games, he was replaced by rookie Daniel Jones. However, after suffering an ankle injury, Manning made his final start at the Giants’ home stadium on Dec. 15, and the team ultimately triumphed against the Miami Dolphins.
As he was taken off the field, a visibly emotional Manning received a standing ovation from the crowd.
News that Manning would be retiring was first shared on Thursday by the New York Giants.
“For 16 seasons, Eli Manning defined what it is to be a New York Giant both on and off the field,” said the Giants president and CEO, John Mara, in a statement on the NFL team’s website.
“Eli is our only two-time Super Bowl MVP and one of the very best players in our franchise’s history,” Mara added. “We are beyond grateful for his contributions to our organization and look forward to celebrating his induction into the Giants Ring of Honor in the near future.”
Although Manning was picked by the San Diego Chargers in the 2004 NFL Draft, after telling the franchise he wouldn’t play for them, the Chargers traded Manning to the Giants.
At the start of his career, Manning was overshadowed by his older brother, former quarterback Peyton Manning, with many doubting whether the young player would live up to the hype.
“I never wavered on him,” Ernie Accorsi, the Giants’ former general manager, told The New York Times last year. “I had been through this before with young quarterbacks. John Elway in his first game lined up behind the guard instead of the center on one play. So I understood what was going on. I didn’t expect a lot … People always ask me what I saw in Eli when he was young. … I didn’t see stats. I saw a leader. I saw championships. That’s what he was brought here for, not stats.”
Manning went on to solidify his legacy and surpass all expectations in 2008 when he led the Giants to an upset victory over Tom Brady and the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XLII — and was named Super Bowl MVP.
The Giants and Patriots met again in Super Bowl XLVI, where they once again trounced New England, this time with a score of 21-17, as Eli picked up his second Super Bowl MVP award.
In 2017, Manning was named a co-recipient of the Walter Payton Man of the Year Award, one of the league’s most respected honors.
“This is very special,” Manning said at the time. “To be mentioned in the same sentence with Walter Payton and to see the amount of people that we’ve helped with the great work we’ve done over the years with my family, and for that to have grown as much as it has and be recognized for this award, is special.”
On Friday, when Manning was asked what’s next for him, he candidly admitted: “I don’t know.”
“I look forward to a little downtime, I look forward to a little time with my family,” he said.