ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) – Eli Manning was all set to pull off a quarterback sneak and show up unannounced at his big brother’s retirement ceremony.
Surprise, Eli caught a stomach bug instead, preventing him from traveling to Denver for Peyton Manning‘s big day.
Oh well, the close brothers will have plenty of time to catch up now that Peyton retired Monday after an 18-year NFL career. Had Eli been here, the tears may have flowed freely, because the Broncos QB began to well up just mentioning his family.
“I’ll miss recapping the game with my dad, and checking to see if the Giants won, and calling Eli as we’re both on our team buses,” said Manning, whose mom and dad, along with brother Cooper, were sitting in the front row.
No more No. 18 on the field? Now that’s hard for Eli to even imagine.
“I’ll definitely miss him playing football,” Eli told the New York Giants website. “I’ll miss getting home after (an early) game and watching his afternoon game on TV with friends and family; hopefully both of us get to celebrate wins.
“I’ll miss watching him play. I’ll miss talking football during the week or talking about a common opponent that we might be playing, or just calling him on the bus when we both had away games.”
Still, he’s happy to see his brother go out on top after leading the Broncos to a 24-10 win over Carolina a month ago in Super Bowl 50.
The Manning brothers are now tied at two Super Bowl titles apiece – but who’s counting?
And don’t read too much into Eli’s sad face at the end of the Super Bowl, either. Peyton had some fun with his little brother’s sour expression during a “Tonight Show” appearance last month. Peyton said he understood why Eli wasn’t elated like other relatives who were shown celebrating after Denver’s late touchdown sealed the Broncos’ win. He told host Jimmy Fallon that Eli had his game face on and was simply analyzing the game.
In all seriousness, Eli couldn’t be more pleased for Peyton’s career.
“I am happy, obviously, for him winning a championship and getting to go out being happy about how the last season ended,” said Eli, who was scheduled to fly in Monday before he caught a virus. “You don’t get to have those feelings very often, to end your football career on a positive note. It is special. I am happy that he was able to kind of go out on his own terms.”
The brothers are trying to organize a family golf game. That should be a whole lot easier with only one offseason schedule to worry about now.
“I’ve learned so much from him,” Eli said. “I see his preparation in the offseason. I can’t even imagine what it’s like in-season. Just being with him in February or in March, just the determination to get a workout in every day.
“We may be on a trip. We may be on vacation or on a golf trip. It might be, ‘Hey, let’s get up at five in the morning to get a workout in.’ Or, ‘Let’s do it after the full day of work or after shooting a commercial.’
“It was not a seasonal deal. It was a year-round commitment to it. … This is the commitment that you have to have if you want to be a good player.”
– By PAT GRAHAM, AP Sports Writer
(© Copyright 2016 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)