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Appreciate Eli for how he met major challenges

The debate whether Eli Manning is a Hall of Fame quarterback already has begun and will last for the next half-decade.

So why not look back at his achievements without wondering if he is bound for the Canton shrine as his brother Peyton will be next year?

The youngest of three sons of a college football superstar, Archie Manning, Eli’s athletic roots were established long before he gripped a football. Older brothers Cooper and Peyton would set a standard almost impossible for anyone to replicate, yet Eli would try.

Give him tons of credit just for that. Cooper would become a high school star in New Orleans as a receiver and wind up at the University of Mississippi, where Archie built his legend. Cooper would be forced to prematurely retire from football with spinal stenosis before he ever caught a pass for Ole Miss.

Peyton dominated Louisiana prep football, then opted to attend Tennessee rather than attempt to lengthen the family legacy at Mississippi. When Eli, five years younger, followed Peyton’s footsteps in high school, he had to recognize it could be a thankless path. Yet he ran down it.

And then he chose to quarterback at Ole Miss, which hadn’t experienced much to brag about since his father was there.

Again, tons of credit.

“You don’t have to talk about how tough you are. You just show people how tough you are, and he did that,” Peyton said in a social media post Friday after Eli officially announced his retirement following a 16-year career with the Giants that included two Super Bowl wins.

He did it in college, helping make Rebels football relevant again. Then he emulated, by six years, Peyton being chosen first overall in the NFL draft. Eli stood firm, along with his family, by seeking a trade from San Diego, which made that pick, and he landed in the Big Apple.

He sat behind Kurt Warner for nine games of his rookie season, and even though New York had a 5-4 record, Manning was inserted as the starter. The Giants went nowhere, but Eli didn’t flinch.

Soon, they were making the playoffs. In 2007, Manning and the Giants didn’t back down in a season finale against New England that the Patriots won 38-35 to complete their perfect regular season. Manning and his teammates built up their confidence from that loss, then won three postseason road games to get to the Super Bowl. And a rematch with the unbeatable Patriots.

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