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What Eli Manning’s jersey retirement means to brother Cooper

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Cooper Manning, brother of Peyton and Eli Manning, huddles with Post columnist Steve Serby for some Q&A before the Giants retire Eli’s No. 10 during Sunday’s game against the Falcons.

Q: What does Eli’s jersey retirement mean to you?

A: To me, it’s just how tough he was. To be the quarterback of the Giants for that long … just answering the bell, just how dedicated he was to this organization — and that he unflappable when the pressure was on.

Q: How emotional do you think Eli will be?

A: You never know. Eli probably is pretty emotional. Unfortunately, when Eli gets choked up, it is contagious for me. He can get pretty choked up pretty easily, so it wouldn’t surprise me.

Q: Describe what kind of little brother Eli was and is.

A: Well, he was quiet. … He didn’t start talking till he was about 5. I remember one time he fell down the stairs when he was about 4. Someone pushed him or whatever, he went down the stairs tumbling — we had big, long stairs, like 20 steps. We thought he was dead and he popped right up, it was like, “I think I’m gonna have some Frosted Flakes.” He didn’t even cry. He never cried. He never complained, you could take him anywhere, and … he’s always the same. He’s still a bit oblivious that he’s a big deal.

Q: What kind of little brother was and is Peyton?

A: We fought a lot (laugh). He was challenging. He was tough, and hardheaded, and competitive.

Q: What did you guys fight over?

A: A lot. We did not agree very much, and we would fight. We argued, we fought — we loved each other, but we were so different, and when you’re two years apart, the older kid usually has a little bit of an edge, and that did not sit well with Peyton. That turned into fighting.

Cooper and Eli Manning after the Giants won Super Bowl XLII.
Reuters

Q: What will this Sunday mean to your parents — former NFL QB Archie and mom Olivia?

A: Oh, man, I think they’re going be so thrilled. I can’t imagine what it was like just to go through the highs and lows of all those games as a parent. The Giants organization has been so great to our family! For E to be recognized and loved. … I think they are very proud.

Q: What adjectives would you use to describe Eli?

A: I would say humble. … I would say loyal … dedicated … steady … and cool.

Q: Cool in what way?

A: He always seems so at ease with a situation. Whether it’s the last two minutes of a game, or in a stressful situation, he’s always just calm and cool and himself, always. He doesn’t get rattled.

Q: What adjectives would you use to describe Peyton?

A: Driven … commanding … relentless … perfectionist. Loyal.

Q: What adjectives would you use to describe Cooper?

A: I would say … highly overrated and well rested.

Q: Are you mistaken more for Peyton or for Eli?

A: Mostly for Don Knotts. … I think it’s kind of changed. It used to be Peyton and now it’s Eli.

Q: Why do you think that is?

A: I guess people have a much firmer feel for what Peyton looks like.

Q: Do they ask you for an autograph?

A: You’d be amazed at how people just comment, like you’re in an elevator or something they’ll say, “Man! You look a lot like Eli Manning.” And I’ll go, “Oh, thank you, yeah, I hear it all the time,” and get off the elevator and you go your separate ways.

Q: Have either of them been mistaken for you?

A: Only when they don’t leave a tip.

Q: What do you recall about Eli’s draft day in 2004?

A: I was playing golf. I was getting reports. I was in Chattanooga, Tennessee, playing golf. Chargers picked him — oh, hmmm, this isn’t over. … A little while later someone’s yelling out: “New York traded for him.” … Oh perfect. Eli and I had dinner with the Chargers a few weeks before.

Q: You had dinner with the Chargers?

A: At the time, the Chargers had flown to New Orleans to take Eli to dinner, and my dad called me and says, “You’re going.” [Head coach] Marty Schottemheimer, [general manager] A.J. Smith and [the owner’s son] Dean Spanos. … “You’re running the show.” Marty and I drank scotch and had a great evening. Eli didn’t say much.

Q: Where did you go? Which place?

A: That was the interesting thing. Of all the places to go in New Orleans, they were staying at the Marriott downtown, we had dinner upstairs at the top of the Marriott.

Q: Not Galatoire’s?

A: I guess they didn’t want the press.

Q: Describe Eli’s first Super Bowl championship in 2008.

A: I couldn’t believe it. It was one of the happiest days of my life.

Q: Why couldn’t you believe it?

A: Because I thought the Patriots were so good.

Q: What do you recall about David Tyree’s catch?

A: I remember just saying a lot of prayers and being just … emotional. I just remember loving every second of it.

Q: Did you go in the postgame locker room?

A: I was down on the field. I have a great picture of Eli and I on the field almost like … kissing on the lips.

Q: What do you remember about Eli’s second Super Bowl win in 2012?

A: I remember just being so excited for him. I was just thrilled for that team. I felt more confident before kickoff. The first one you kind of said, “Like man, we got here. It’s amazing we got here, that [NFC Championship] game in Green Bay was fantastic. Now I’m just gonna enjoy it.” The second time I’m like, “I think we match up pretty well with the Pats. I think we got a pretty good shot.”

Q: As a brother, what’s the difference between watching Peyton play quarterback and Eli play quarterback?

A: For me, I guess because Peyton and I are so close in age, he is more of a peer, maybe I’m a little harder on him. And with Eli, he’s my little brother, and I’m a little more protective of him.

Q: How about their styles of play?

A: Peyton is just using every muscle and fiber of his body to get things done. He’s yelling, he’s intense, his veins in his neck are popping out. Eli, you’d think he was watching a symphony, he’s just mellow and calm and cool. Totally different.

Q: What did you think the day that Eli was benched to end his Ironman streak in 2017?

A: I remember feeling kind of sick about that, I didn’t like that. That did not sit well with me. But it’s the NFL, it’s a business, you learn to expect the unexpected.

Q: When you spoke to him that day, what did you tell him, or what did he say to you?

A: Eli never complained, and never made excuses and never talked bad about any player or coach as long as I’ve known him. Never. Never. And he had ample opportunities over the course of a career — you have some stuff that goes wrong, some guys that behave poorly or don’t act right or aren’t trying … and he never, ever, ever would ever talk bad about anyone.

Cooper Manning gives Eli a kiss on the cheek after the Giants defeated the Packers in the 2007 NFC Championship.
Cooper Manning gives Eli a kiss on the cheek after the Giants defeated the Packers in the 2007 NFC Championship.
Charles Wenzelberg

Q: What were your emotions after Peyton’s first Super Bowl win, with the Colts in 2007?

A: I was happy he hushed the critics who said Peyton couldn’t win the big one. I’m glad all that s–t was over.

Q: And his second Super Bowl win, with the Broncos in 2016?

A: To go out on top like that is just so hard. That had been kind of tough season, he had been injured, he came back and it was just cherry on top of an unbelievable career.

Q: And his Hall of Fame induction last month?

A: I was just so proud of him. No one deserved it more, no one loved football more. … That’s the ultimate validation that you were the best in your era and you did it the right way.

Q: What kind of uncle for your three children is Eli?

A: Laid-back … likes to tease them and messes with them a little bit. He would do anything for them. … Offers advice when asked, as you can imagine.

Q: Does your son, Arch, seek out Eli or Peyton or both for quarterback tips?

A: He’s leaned on both of them. I like that they have their own relationship that I’m not privy to, and that’s the way it should be.

Q: Do you think Eli would want his son, Charlie, to play quarterback?

A: Knowing Eli, just like we were taught, you let ’em do whatever they want to do. If they like it, you let ’em do it. I don’t think Eli will lose any sleep whether Charlie plays lacrosse or is in the band. It doesn’t matter. It’s nice to have kids be on a team, but all you want is your children to be is happy.

Q: Why weren’t you a quarterback?

A: I was a quarterback all the way up till my sophomore year, I had a senior ahead of me, a junior ahead of me, and I wanted to play, so I just moved to receiver that year, and I liked it out there. And then, here comes Peyton.

Archie Manning poses with his sons, Peyton, Cooper and Eli in 2007.
Archie Manning poses with his sons, Peyton, Cooper and Eli in 2007.
AP

Q: What was Peyton like in the huddle at Isidore Newman High School in New Orleans when you were a senior and he was a sophomore?

A: Super confident, and just a natural leader.

Q: Did he chew you out?

A: Of course. He’d yell if I ran a wrong route, or if I dropped one … even in practice. He holds everybody accountable. And the only way you can do that is if you’re doing the work. You can’t rip a guy if you are not doing the work … so he was always the hardest working guy, so by default he has the credibility to give it to you.

Q: Did you fancy yourself as another Cris Collinsworth?

A: I fancy myself at least four times a day.

Q: What was the moment like for you when they told you in the summer before your freshman year at Ole Miss that you had spinal stenosis and couldn’t play football anymore?

A: It was heavy. Very heavy. My dad told me. I remember where we were in the den. I have always had a little bit of an attitude of like, “I can handle anything.” And that was the way it was: So there’s one thing I’m not allowed to do anymore … football, I’m going go try some other things, and I’m going to make the best of it. I’m kind of a grass-is-greener-right-where-I-am so … it hurt, but I accepted it and moved on.

Q: Did you cry over it?

A: Of course.

Q: Why was Ole Miss the perfect place for you?

A: It’s a charming place with wonderful people, they’re just welcoming. It was kind of fun growing up in New Orleans and then going to a smaller town. Oxford’s a special place, and I loved my time there.

Q: How much fun is it being a TV personality for you?

A: My wife has always wanted to go out with a game show host, I finally delivered. It’s fun, it comes real easy to me, I like being myself and having fun.

Q: Your thoughts on Eli and Peyton and their ESPN2 “Monday Night Football” gig?

A: I think they’re doing great, I’m so proud of ’em, it looks like they’re having fun, and I think they’re only gonna get better.

Q: Have you been on with them yet?

A: No, I have not. I’m holding out for when they really make it big.

Q: You used to be an energy trader, and now?

A: I am in real estate private equity.

Q: What is the best practical joke Eli has played on you?

A: Eli’s smarter than that. He knows revenge would not go well.

Q: Three dinner guests?

A: Mickey Mantle, Don Rickles, Burt Reynolds.

Q: Favorite movie?

A: “Hoosiers.”

Q: Favorite actor?

A: Chevy Chase.

Q: Favorite actress?

A: Julia Louis-Dreyfus.

Q: Favorite singer/entertainer?

A: Elvis.

Q: Favorite meal?

A: Veal Piccata and a side of fettuccini.

Q: You weren’t concerned that New York might have been the wrong place for Eli?

A: New York’s the wrong place for everybody when you’re trying to prove people wrong. Of course I was, I was scared to death for him.

Q: Were you concerned that people in New York wanted him to be Peyton?

A: Of course. Sure. Looking back, it’s ironic that Peyton went to a small town and ran the show, and Eli goes to a big town and blends in. If it would have gone the other way around, Eli might have gotten lost in a small town, and Peyton would have strangled you by the third preseason game.

Q: Once a Giant, only a Giant: Why does that mean so much to Eli?

A: He loves being involved with such a classy organization. They both believed in each other.

Q: Describe the bond between Eli and Giants fans,

A: I think they are his big brother in a way. They look after him.

Q: Why do they love him?

A: Because they hurt when he struggled, and they cried when he won.



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