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Two-time NFL Super Bowl champion Manning finds freedom off the football field

Band Amy Tennery

NEW YORK, January 15 (Reuters)Two-time Super Bowl champion Eli Manning is an expert at silencing the critics of the grill from the bleachers of his third-grade daughter’s basketball game.

The mild-mannered four-time Pro Bowler defined an era of New York Giants football, contrasting with the big names in the National Football League before retiring in January 2020 with a long list of franchise records.

Today, the quarterback-turned-women’s-basketball coach lets her hair down, enjoys the relative anonymity afforded by a face mask, and stands empty of critical relatives.

“You don’t have parents yelling at you because their child isn’t playing enough,” Manning, 41, told Reuters. “I was like, ‘No, I don’t do emails. I don’t take any criticism. Like, we’re going over there. We’re playing.'”

It’s the kind of talent that even his avid fans might not have seen during his playing days, during which he pulled off one of the biggest upsets in pro sports by beating the La Patriots. New England undefeated Tom Brady at the Super Bowl in 2008.

“I didn’t want my fans to think I was doing anything other than football,” Manning said. “I just wanted them to think that’s all I did…And to some extent that was kind of true.”

Two years after retiring, he all but lost that mindset singing Olivia Rodrigo’s Gen Z anthem “good 4 u” in a raucous post-season ad campaign for Frito-Lay and PepsiCo with other larger-than-life NFL personalities, including Terry Bradshaw, and riding the popularity of the “ManningCast” show he launched last year on ESPN2 with his brother Peyton.

“I definitely had another side of me that my teammates knew,” he said. “They kind of saw me relax or I might let my hair down a bit. And so, yeah, I think now it’s kind of all that – I don’t have to hide anything… you’re just nice to be a little more relaxed and ready to show off a little more.”

Manning predicts more success for MVP contender Aaron Rodgers this postseason, with the quarterback’s Green Bay Packers enjoying a week off thanks to a first-round bye.

“I just don’t know who’s going to go to Green Bay and beat them at home,” said Manning, who sees the Tennessee Titans win the AFC.

“I feel like even though they (the Packers) are the number one seed, they’re still an underdog. Nobody really gives them a chance and I think they like that,” Manning said. .

“They don’t explode guys, but they find ways to win. And I think just having that quality is a good thing to have in the playoffs.”

(Reporting by Amy Tennery; Editing by Ken Ferris)

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