Eli manning didn’t grow up a Giants fan, the way Derek Jeter grew up a Yankees fan. But in the end, there was no bigger Giants fan than Manning, no other franchise he wanted to play for, no other uniform he wanted to wear other than his No. 10.
And so he hangs it up, and we get to thank him for the memories one more time — the two Super Bowl championships against the Patriots GOATs, the 210-game Ironman streak, outdueling Brett Favre in the 2007 NFC Championship in arctic Green Bay, our Rambo at Lambeau, taking a licking and keeping on ticking in the 2011 NFC Championship in San Francisco, the class and dignity and integrity — when he says goodbye to 1925 Giants Drive on Friday morning.
“That’s the one thing I always wanted to be remembered as, to be remembered as a Yankee,” Jeter said on the day the doors to Cooperstown were opened to him the way the doors to Canton will one day be opened to Manning.
Good for Eli.
This is the right way for him to go out.
It is the only way for him to go out.
To be remembered forever as The Ultimate Giant of this era the way Frank Gifford is remembered as The Ultimate Giant of his.
Our Perfect 10.
“I’m just pleased that he only played for one team,” former Giants GM Ernie Accorsi told The Post on Wednesday night. “First of all, he loves this franchise like I love it. It’s a special franchise. To me, in sports in general, there’s nothing like it, I don’t think.
“Could you have ever wanted to see [Mickey] Mantle or [Joe] DiMaggio in another uniform? Or Jeter in another uniform? And I had to see that. I saw John Unitas wear a San Diego Charger uniform. [Joe] Namath played one year for the Rams.
“It doesn’t look right, you know? It just doesn’t look right. Even [Montana] didn’t look right in a Kansas City Chief uniform.
“I just think it’s great that he wore one uniform, and he won two titles for us. You didn’t pick a quarterback for any other reason, just to win championships, and he delivered that.”
It was Accorsi who traded for Manning on draft day 2004, and the memory of sitting up in the stands with his son Michael at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Ariz., when the kid he fell in love with as an Ole Miss quarterback had the ball at the end and a Super Bowl championship to win.
“When he got the ball on the 17-yard line,” Accorsi recalled, “I remember saying to him, ‘If Eli’s what we really thought he was, he does it right now.’ “
Accorsi never doubted that he one day would — even when Manning struggled to resemble a franchise quarterback in his early years.
“I had seen it all before,” Accorsi said. “I saw [John] Elway line up under the guard when the guard turned around and said, ‘John, I don’t have the ball, the center has it.’ “
Accorsi saw Manning for the first time as a junior against Auburn.
“Every time Auburn would score, when they would score quickly, Eli would take ’em down the field, put Mississippi back in front,” Accorsi said. “And Auburn would score, Eli would take ’em down the field. And he did it all day. It was a cold, windy day, it was in Mississippi. And the last time Auburn scored in the last few minutes, he did it again … he didn’t quite pull it off. I don’t know what play they called, but it was obvious that the receiver ran the wrong pattern, and he ran out and put his arm around the player to console him.”
Accorsi recalls the time former Tulane quarterback J.P. Losman showed up unannounced at Manning’s Pro Day at the Saints facility.
“Peyton’s upset,” agent Tom Condon said to Accorsi, “but Eli doesn’t care.”
He was Easy Eli, the Giants’ Jeter; so clutch, same guy every day, perfect for New York.
“There’s humility, there’s great character, great mom and dad, he never tried to be anybody but Eli,” Accorsi said. “He was just Eli.
“I never saw him make a demonstrative move on the field to embarrass a teammate. I think ultimately, from player to player, the greatest tribute that you can say about a player is, ‘Was he a good teammate?’ Eli was a great teammate.”
Manning called Accorsi with the news on Monday.
“It was the classic understated Eli,” Accorsi said, and then laughed. “He said, ‘I don’t want a lot of hoopla.’ “
Accorsi laughed again at the recollection of the legendary Paul Brown instructing him not to make a fuss the day he revealed his intention to retire. “And he went out for dinner,” Accorsi said.
No 2020 team was going to be as hot for the 39-year-old Manning to be their quarterback as Accorsi was to trade up for him on draft day 2004, and that must have been a sobering realization for such a proud man who believed he could still play.
He leaves with more career earnings ($252.5 million) than anyone, which means he leaves the way someone of his character deserves to leave, the way all too many of them with CTE or broken bones or hearts do not get to leave: healthy, wealthy and wise, husband and father of four.
And a giant of an example of how a professional athlete should be expected to go about his business.
A giant of a Giant.
And of course the man who brought Eli Manning to New York will be there beaming with pride at the farewell press conference.
“I feel he did exactly what we hoped that he would do when we acquired him,” Accorsi said.
On one of the walls inside the Giants facility are words uttered by the late, great Wellington Mara that Eli Manning always honored, and will now live forever by:
Once A Giant, Always A Giant.
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