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The Lighter Side of Eli

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Eli Manning had Super sense of future while still in high school







Monday, January 28th 2008, 4:00 AM







NEW ORLEANS - In the middle of the 1999 Isidore Newman School yearbook, the most famous senior in the class penned a lengthy inscription filled with one-liners and inside jokes.


Toward the end of Elisha Nelson Manning's senior farewell, the humble quarterback dedicated a prophetic boast to his already well-known older brother that no one will take lightly anymore.


"Peyt - We had our fun times, and our serious times (watch out world, you ain't seen nothin' yet.)"


The statement is so out of character for the shy Manning that his father and brother burst out laughing when told of the line.


"That doesn't sound like Eli does it?" says Cooper, the oldest Manning brother. "Somebody must have borrowed the typewriter and typed that in. That sounds like Eli just getting a rise out of somebody. Apparently it worked. I have a hard time believing it, actually."


Nine years ago, Manning foretold his Newman classmates what the world is now witnessing. For the second straight year, a Manning will be on flat screens around the world: This time, it's Eli's turn in the Super Bowl as he tries to hand Tom Brady and the Patriots their first loss of the season on Sunday.


The fact that he predicted such a feat nearly a decade ago - even if he said it in jest - is proof that what you see is not always what you get with Manning.


There is another side to the reserved quarterback nicknamed "Easy" that those outside his inner circle and the Giants' locker room rarely see. Deep beneath that Southern "yes sir, yes ma'am" exterior lies a fiery, cutthroat competitor. Not only does he have a drive that matches Peyton's, he has a sense of humor that isn't all that far from the one the Colts QB displays in commercials.


Sure, Manning sounds as dull as Tom Coughlin during interviews. But during his college days at Ole Miss, Manning was known to blast tunes on the karaoke machine in his apartment: Easy-E belting out "Bohemian Rhapsody"? Watch out world, indeed.


"He enjoys life," says Sheila Collins, Manning's Newman School calculus teacher. "There was a little devilment in him."


The "Seinfeld" fanatic used to religiously quote "Deep Thoughts by Jack Handey" - the skit on "Saturday Night Live." In fact, he opened his senior inscription with an inspirational saying, followed by this deep thought: "Broken promises don't upset me. I just think, why did they believe me?"




"He loves to laugh and make fun of himself and surround himself with people that are funny and spare no expense at a good time," says Cooper Manning, a partner with the Howard Weil energy equities research firm in New Orleans. "He is a little more behind-the-scenes funny. He is more likely to do something when you are not looking."


But when people watch Manning on the field, they usually see an emotionless and sometimes passive-looking quarterback whose biggest display of emotion is an occasional fist pump. But looks can be deceiving, as he wrote to his parents in his yearbook.


"To Arch and Mom - Even though I never said much or showed any emotions, I love you and I'll miss you," Manning wrote.


If critics thought that Manning's personality wouldn't survive a New York minute, those close to the quarterback knew otherwise. The way they saw it, his unflappable demeanor was the perfect mechanism to cope with the pressures of playing on the biggest stage.


"He's laid back but I wouldn't be fooled by that," says Newman athletic director Billy Fitzgerald, who coached Manning on the varsity basketball team. "He is not going to growl and make faces like somebody else might but he is just as competitive. He doesn't like to lose."


While all the Mannings share the genes of their New Orleans Saints quarterback father, they seem as different as strangers.


Cooper, 33, has the personality that turns heads.


"Cooper is our family comedian, clown, entertainer," Archie says.


Peyton, 31, is the emotional and intense one with the legendary work ethic. And Eli, 26, is the mama's boy of the trio. Since he was the youngest and alone at home when his older brothers were in college and his father traveling for speaking engagements, Manning took on many of his mother's traits.


"She is very calm," Archie says of Olivia. "I call her the great equalizer. She can handle any situation with calm and she has good judgment and makes good decisions."


Manning led the Giants to the Super Bowl by making the right decisions in the playoffs. He outplayed Jeff Garcia, Tony Romo and Brett Favre on their turf by playing error-free and not throwing a single interception.


"Archie told me that he doesn't get nervous when Eli is quarterback because Eli is so relaxed," says family friend Pat Browne Jr., a champion blind golfer who plays in the Guiding Eyes for the Blind golf outing hosted by the Giants' quarterback in Yorktown Heights in Westchester County. "Peyton is very intense and Archie feels that."



On Sunday, thousands in New Orleans and Oxford, Miss., will join their beloved Archie and root on one of his sons again in the Super Bowl.


At Newman on Thursday, there will be a Manning pep rally for the second straight year in which each of the 1,000 students in the pre-kindergarten-through-12th grade school will come to school wearing the Giants' colors.


And at the Blair E. Batson Hospital for Children at the University of Mississippi Medical Center, where Manning is raising $2.5 million to build a new children's clinic, there will be several kids wearing Giants colors this week. Manning recently visited several young patients, including one teenager who was undergoing chemotherapy.


"The kid took his cap off and exposed his bald head and asked if he could sign his head," says Dr. Dan Jones, dean of the school of medicine at the medical center. "Eli did and lifted the spirits of the kid in a big way."


On Sunday, Manning hopes to become the second Manning to lift the Vince Lombardi trophy.


A year ago, Eli watched Peyton win MVP honors, then got lost in the depths of Dolphin Stadium. Manning would eventually catch up to his brother in more ways than one.


And to think, he wasn't even the first Manning to tell the world of what was to come. In Peyton's senior Newman yearbook, the Colts' quarterback made his own eye-popping declaration years before Eli's.


"Watch out, world," Peyton wrote. "(Eli is) the best one."




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