“I know how to do fractions; I don’t know how to teach fractions,” says Eli Manning, who is helping his kids with distance learning

By Greg Hanlon
May 11, 2020 12:25 PM
Eli Manning on USO call with service members
Eli Manning and host Chris Jacobs chat with a service member and her family
| Credit: USO

Having retired from the NFL following a 16-year career, Eli Manning no longer has to spend his offseasons preparing for the rigors of the fall. But amid the coronavirus pandemic, the dad-of-four is as busy as ever.

“People always asked me, ‘How’re you gonna stay busy?’ Well, it has not been a problem,” says Manning, 39, who temporarily moved with his family from their New Jersey home to Oxford, Mississippi, during the outbreak, which has hit New Jersey hard.

Last Thursday, the two-time Super Bowl MVP with the New York Giants joined 115 military members stationed across the globe and their families for an online Q&A. The Zoom call was hosted by Chris Jacobs and organized by the USO, part of the military service organization’s shift to virtual entertainment during the coronavirus crisis.

In previous years, Manning would be preparing for the start of spring practices. Now, he says he and his wife Abby are occupied with their three daughters, 9, 6, and 5, and 1-year-old son. He says hasn’t picked up a regulation-sized NFL football, but he’s throwing a smaller one to his kids in the backyard. He’s playing wiffle ball, riding bikes, and struggling with a challenge facing many parents: helping with his kids’ distance learning.

“I know how to do fractions; I don’t know how to teach fractions,” says Manning. “Teaching and knowing are two different things.”

Eli Manning on USO call with service members
Credit: USO

He has also thrown himself into charity work, mentioning an upcoming event with the Robin Hood Foundation, an anti-poverty organization in New York City, the nation’s epicenter of the coronavirus. It’s a continuation of the work Manning did his entire career: In 2016, he was named the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year, an annual award honoring a player’s charity work, which he said on the Zoom call was his proudest accomplishment in his years in the league.

His favorite on-field memory? The two Super Bowl titles in the 2007 and 2011 seasons come to mind, he says. But just as memorable as the moments of victory are the lifelong connections that came with them.

“It’s really the bond you have with those teammates, with those coaches,” he says. “Not just them. It’s the video guys. It’s the people in the cafeteria. When you win a championship with those people, it’s a special bond that’s unbreakable.”

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He adds, “Whenever you see those players from those [championship] teams, it’s an automatic hug. I’m glad I haven’t seen one the past few weeks, because it would have been awkward doing the elbow.”

Now his accomplishments are less publicized but important just the same: The previous day, he says, he taught his 5-year-old daughter how to ride a bike without training wheels.

As for his plans for the future, Manning says he is taking the year getting settled with his family to decide his next move. He says he knows he doesn’t want to be an NFL coach, though he’s enjoying coaching his kids’ teams and wants to stay involved with youth sports.

Eli Manning on USO call with service members
Credit: USO

On the call, he thanked the service members, saying, “Thank you for all that you do. Protecting us and protecting our freedoms. We appreciate your commitment to protecting us and our families.”

When the NFL returns — whenever that may be — Manning says he’ll fully absorb the magnitude of his decision to retire: “It’ll hit me how much you miss the locker room. You miss your teammates, your buddies, road trips.”

But, he adds, “I know I made the right decision.”