Giants’ Eli Manning Surprises NJ High School Athlete Award Winners

Quarterback Eli Manning has brought two Super Bowl titles to the New York/New Jersey area thus far in his career. On June 13, he got to meet and encourage those who might be future sports stars from New Jersey.

Manning was on hand for the inaugural Jersey Shore Sports Awards, hosted by New Jersey newspaper the Asbury Park Press. The event took place at the Multipurpose Activity Center of Monmouth University in Long Branch, New Jersey. Manning talked with award recipients, posed for photos with them, gave a speech to all and hosted a Q&A session that lasted nearly half an hour.

In total the event brought out more than 1,000 people, of which almost 400 were Shore Conference high school student-athletes representing 47 schools throughout the district. Manning, who played three sports — football, basketball and baseball — in high school, reminded those in attendance about the “special bond” high school athletics brings.

“I love high school sports because you’re playing with people you’ve known your whole life,” said Manning. “It’s a special bond you have with people who want to do something special.”

Playing at Isidore Newman High School in New Orleans, Eli Manning had a high school career similar to that of his brother, Peyton,his high school coach, Frank Gendusa, said in an interview the day of Super Bowl XLVI. They were both three-year starters, had similar amounts of passing yards and pass completion percentage.

But Gendusa said it was more than just Eli’s numbers that made him great.

Eli made us a better team and made the players around him better by what he did, not by what he said,” Gendusa said. “His leadership qualities made us successful, because everybody wants to follow a guy who’s working hard. Nobody outworked Eli in the weight room.”

Eli passed the message of leadership and dedication on to the high school student athletes he met, saying how a role as a leader is earned.

“You have to set a great example because that’s where it starts,” he said. “Once you’ve earned that right, then you’ll feel the desire to say something or lift the spirits of someone going through a tough time.”

It’s not just athletics that Manning stressed, however. While he was a standout college football player, earning awards from the 2003 SEC Offensive Player of the Year to the 2004 Cotton Bowl Classic MVP to several All America honors, it wasn’t just an NFL career he left college with. Finishing with a 3.44 GPA, he graduated from the University of Mississippi with a bachelor’s degree in marketing.

“I never wanted to disappoint my teammates or coaches growing up,” said Manning. “I wanted to get my school work done so I could be on the field with my teammates. Be accountable. I wanted my teammates then and now to trust me that I’m going to do everything I can to be on the field with them.”

Manning didn’t tell all serious tales, however. Son of NFL great, Archie Manning, Eli talked about how he never understood why all his friends growing up asked for autographs from his father.

“So I always went to my friends’ houses and would ask their dads for autographs,” he said.

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