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Eli Manning: It was important for me to retire a Giant

Sixteen seasons Eli Manning donned the New York Giants' No. 10 jersey, leading Big Blue to two Super Bowl victories. Sixteen seasons, Manning embodied charisma, character, leadership, and humility. Sixteen seasons with the same franchise. Never another.

"Wellington Mara always said 'Once a Giant, always a Giant.' For me, it's only a Giant," Manning said Friday at his retirement press conference.

After 234 regular-season starts, two Super Bowl MVPs and compiling a breath of stats to lead the Giants franchise, Manning said he didn't seriously consider playing with another team in 2020.

"I think it was important for me to go out as a Giant," he said. "I think when you come, when you get drafted, you come to an organization that's always your goal to stay with one organization your entire career. As you get towards the end of it, it doesn't always work out that way. You still have desires to play sometime. I think it's important, the fans, the organization, this family with the Giants has been so remarkable. I think it was the right thing to call it a career and to end it instead of trying to uproot my family and leave and try somewhere else. This was the right decision. I know it is. I'm at peace with it, and I think that's what has made this day a little bit easier."

Surrounded by former teammates and coaches, the outpouring of support for Manning's career illustrated the influence he had on one of the great NFL franchises.

One of the most gracious professional athletes to play in the media hotbed of New York, Manning never strayed in 16 years from who he was as a person and player. Even taking on a backup role in his final season with the Giants behind Daniel Jones, the 39-year-old always remained true to himself.

"It's impossible to explain the satisfaction and actually the joy I've experienced being a Giant," he said. "From the very first moment, I did it my way. I couldn't be someone other than who I am. Undoubtedly, I would have made the fans, the media, even the front office more comfortable if I was a more rah-rah guy, but that's not me. Ultimately, I choose to believe that my teammates and the fans learn to appreciate that. They knew that what they got was pure, unadulterated Eli. I don't have any regrets, and I won't look in the rearview mirror."

Co-owner John Mara noted Manning will always be the "ultimate Giant," and the franchise will immediately induct the signal-caller into the team's Ring of Honor next season and retire Eli's jersey.

"No Giant will ever wear No. 10 again," Mara said.

As for his future in retirement, Manning noted he's looking forward to spending time with his family, notably as a third-grade assistant basketball coach for his daughter's team. The QB didn't dismiss the possibility that he could re-join the Giants in a front-office capacity down the road.

"I think that would definitely be something I would be interested in. I've just got to discuss that and talk to Mr. Mara and see in what ways, and I've got to think about in what way." he said. "Again, I'll take some time and just figure out how I want to spend these next years. But this organization, as I've said, so many close friends within the organization, and not just former teammates but people in all departments of the organization. The faces, they don't change, people don't leave here because of all the wonderful people and the way the organization is run, and they take care of the people here. They do have so many great people that I'd love to be around and be around the people that I call my friends."

Manning didn't only love the organization, he became one with Giants fans, who have always had the QBs back through thick and thin.

"And to the Giants fans, you are definitely unique. But I love you for that," he said. "I'm walking away today feeling like a New Yorker. Well, at least a Northeasterner. And that says a lot about a guy from New Orleans who went to Ole Miss."

Now that adopted New Yorker will sail on towards the next chapter of his life, but he'll always be a Giant.

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