"I look forward to a little time with my family," the New York Giants quarterback said in his retirement speech
Eli Manning is trading football gameplay for more playtime with his children.
On Friday, the longtime New York Giants quarterback, 39, formally announced his retirement from the NFL at a press conference, as he was joined by his wife Abby and their four kids — daughters Ava Frances, 8, Lucy Thomas, 6, Caroline Olivia, 5 on Wednesday, plus son Charlie, 11 months.
Thanking his family in his speech, Manning called his wife and kids his “rock” throughout his career.
“I don’t think I need to make public comments for my family to know how I think about them,” he said, “but Abby, and to Ava and Lucy and Caroline and Charlie, you are my rock.”
The father of four added of his retirement: “I look forward to a little downtime; I look forward to a little time with my family.”
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During a 2012 campaign partnership with Pampers, Manning described the unmatched joy he felt in becoming a father.
“The greatest thing about being a dad is that you never realize that you could love something immediately in your life, the first time that you see your daughter,” he said at the time. “And every day, just wanting to be around her and telling her that you love her, and showing that every single day.”
Manning, in 2014, told PEOPLE about raising young kids with a family pet, saying that their dog Chester was “sweet” with little Ava and Lucy at the time.
“He’s sweet with our kids,” said Manning. “It’s fun seeing my oldest starting to interact and wanting to play fetch and them having their own special relationship.”
Reflecting on his 16-year professional football career, Manning — whose older brother Peyton Manning was also a standout NFL athlete — said in his retirement speech on Friday that he has no regrets looking back.
“From the very first moment, I did it my way. I couldn’t be someone other than who I am. … I don’t have any regrets and I won’t look in the rearview mirror,” he said.
“I choose to leave this game with only positive memories — why harp on the not-so-proud moments?” he added later on in the speech, concluding with: “For most of my life people have called me easy, believe me there is nothing easy about today.”