News From Terre Haute, Indiana

January 31, 2012

Eli slowly emerging from Peyton’s shadow

Tom James
Tribune-Star Correspondent

INDIANAPOLIS — Eli Manning has lived in the shadow of older brother Peyton all of his life. Whatever successes Eli has had on the football field, they often paled in comparison to what his more illustrious sibling had already accomplished.

Both were outstanding quarterbacks at Isadore Newman High School in New Orleans. Peyton became a collegiate All-American at Tennessee. Eli did the same at the University of Mississippi, the alma mater of their father Archie.

Peyton was the first pick in the 1998 National Football League draft. Eli, meanwhile, went first in 2004. Peyton was the winning quarterback and game MVP in Super Bowl XLI. Eli did the same a year later in Super Bowl XLII.

This year, though, Eli has a golden opportunity to get a leg up on his celebrated sibling. The “baby” of the Manning family has a chance to move to the front of the class by annexing a second Super Bowl title.

If that happens — if Eli can lead his New York Giants team to a second championship-game victory over the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XLVI Sunday at Lucas Oil Stadium — he can also help his big brother. Peyton was forced to miss the 2011 NFL season after undergoing neck surgery and his future in the league remains uncertain.

“If you play this game long enough, you realize how precious each season is and how precious these opportunities are. You don’t know if you’re to get a chance to play in another Super Bowl,” Eli acknowledged Monday during the Giants’ initial press conference of Super Bowl Week.

“You understand that when you have a good team, when you have good players, you have an opportunity to win a championship, you don’t want to let those things slip away because you just don’t know when you’re going to get that opportunity.”

Being the youngest of three brothers — three highly competitive brothers — Eli Manning learned early to stand up for himself. A second Most Valuable Player award in the Super Bowl could go a long way to helping him to escape the giant shadow that Peyton Manning casts — especially when facing a franchise like the Patriots, the long-time nemesis and rival of his older brother’s team. And doing it in his older brother’s home stadium.

“You understand that [New England is] very talented. They have the ability to score a lot of points. The defense has the ability to keep to a minimum of points. So it’s going to be a great challenge on both sides of the ball to do our jobs,” Eli Manning stressed.

“It’s also a situation where you’ve seen them play so many times also. From a fan, from Colts games. You just see them on television a lot. You know the players, you know the names. You know the style of football that they play. So it makes it seem that you’ve played them more than you have.”

He was reminded by a reporter Monday of a comment Peyton had made while receiving his MVP award after leading Indianapolis to a Super Bowl XLI win over the Chicago Bears. Big brother took the opportunity to brag a little about his younger brother, saying that Eli can and will win Super Bowls. A year later, he did just that in leading New York past the Patriots.

“I think he was just trying to be nice at the time,” Eli said. “To see Peyton after that game down in the locker room, seeing that smile on his face, and spending a lot of time with him over the next couple months after winning that Super Bowl, it definitely made you jealous.

“You always want to win a championship. But when you see someone win, the relief and the smile that was painted on his face for months makes you win one even more. It truly gives you a burning desire to get one. I think that made a bigger impact on me than his comments. But obviously there’s not a better feeling from a professional standpoint than knowing you’ve done your job better than anyone else. That’s what we’re fighting for.”