Pro football quarterback
Born: January 3, 1981, in New Orleans, Louisiana
Lives in: Summit, New Jersey
New Jersey Hall of Fame, Class of 2019-20: Sports
In sports, not every first-round draft pick turns into a star. Elisha Nelson (“Eli”) Manning, the first pick in the 2004 National Football League player draft, turned into a superstar and a two-time Super Bowl MVP with the New York Giants.
Born in New Orleans, Manning is the son of former NFL quarterback Archie Manning and the younger brother of Peyton Manning, who already was a star quarterback when Eli entered the NFL. Like his father, Eli played quarterback at the University of Mississippi, where he set a truckload of passing records and, as a senior in 2003, led his team to a Cotton Bowl victory. Manning won the Maxwell Award that season as the nation’s best all-round college player, and finished third in the Heisman Trophy voting.
The San Diego Chargers had the first pick in the 2004 NFL player draft and had their eyes on Manning, but he made it clear he would not sign with the team. In a prearranged move, the Chargers signed him anyway, then traded him to the Giants.
Manning took over as the Giants’ starting quarterback in 2005, his second season, and stayed in that role until 2019, at one point starting 210 consecutive games, the third-longest streak by an NFL quarterback. Along the way, Manning led the Giants to the NFL playoffs six times and to two Super Bowl victories.
In 2007, the fifth-seeded Giants stunned the undefeated New England Patriots in Super Bowl XLII with a 17-14 victory on a Manning touchdown pass with 35 seconds remaining. (This a few plays after Manning had connected with New Jersey’s own David Tyree, whose memorable “helmet catch” resulted in a 32-yard gain.) Manning was named Super Bowl MVP. In 2011, the Giants again reached the Super Bowl as underdogs and again defeated the Patriots in the final moments of the game, this time by a score of 21-17. Manning again was named MVP.
When he retired after the 2019 season, Manning held the all-time Giants’ records for most passing yards, most completions and most touchdown passes. He ranks in the top 10 among all quarterbacks for career passing yardage and most touchdown passes (with 366). Thanks to his post-season heroics, Manning is one of only five players to have two Super Bowl MVP awards.