One thing most football fans know about Giants quarterback Eli Manning: He's good at beating the Super Bowls against the Patriots.
One thing most fans don't know about him: he's so good at play, big and small.
A receiver removes his gloves to find that his hands are tinted blue. An offensive striker discovers that his shoes for the Super Bowl are painted purple.
A novice wonders why his suitcase is so heavy without realizing that someone has covered the bottom with weights.
A coach finds his missing bike hanging from the rafters of a basketball arena.
"Eli is one of the most creative and considerate human beings when it comes to play," Zak DeOssie, a teammate for the past 13 seasons, recently said in an email.
It is a lesser known part of Manning's 16 Year Legacy with the Giants, a term expected to end after Sunday's season finale against the Philadelphia Eagles.
"When he feels he's close to trusted people, teammates and people like that, he definitely lowers his guard," said Tim Hasselbeck, who was a replacement for Manning in 2005 and 2006. "And he's definitely a slob."
The Giants hired quarterback Daniel Jones last spring, hoping he was Manning's long-term replacement, and backed him after two defeats in September. This may have prompted Manning to retire, although he has not announced his plans beyond this season. He will be 39 next Friday.
Two Sundays ago, while Jones had a sprained ankle, Manning started against the Miami Dolphins at MetLife Stadium. It looked like Eli Manning's day of appreciation. The crowd of the house greeted him with a standing ovation and then serenaded him as he left the field. In between, Manning made two touchdown passes to lead the Giants to victory, ending a nine-loss streak.
Jones started again last weekend and led the Giants to another victory. After the game, Jones and Manning celebrated at a bar in Hoboken, New York, throwing napkins in the air and throwing cups at a drinking game – revelations that were captured and disseminated on social media.
"I saw and thought, man, this is Eli," said Mike Sullivan, former Giants quarterback coach and offensive coordinator. "That's who he is."
Manning managed the rarest of New York tricks – becoming a high-powered star without scandal. Liked and respected, he could teach New York media dealing – be friendly, approachable and rarely quoted. He was good-natured, not hilarious.
He publicly displayed his comic, scripted and unscripted chops in other ways. He proved to be funny when he wasn't trying to be.
Manning Sent David Letterman started laughing shortly after being first chosen at NF.L. draft project in 2004. Manning was selected by the San Diego Chargers, despite warnings that he would not play for them, and was soon negotiated with the Giants.
"Were there other teams you said," I'm not interested in playing? "Letterman asked on his" Late Show. "
"No, that was the only one," Manning replied, his face serious, making Letterman so angry that he laughed for almost 10 seconds.
Manning later co-starred with his older brother Peyton in cheeky commercials, selling everything from Sunday Night Football for Oreos. They hit a DirectTV ad and played "football cops ”in another. Eli gave Peyton a willy wet in an ESPN commercial.
And Eli accidentally provided the Internet funny guys. There was a #manningface hashtag on Twitter, mostly applied to looks of confusion or exasperation.
The most famous came when Peyton Manning led the Broncos to a crucial Super Bowl touchdown in 2016. Eli's stolid expression amid a luxury box full of excited family members was widely derided, including by his brother.
That's what the public sees – Easy Eli, with a weird countenance. But to teammates and coaches, he's best known as a Hall of Fame caliber prankster.
"One of the things that helped him succeed was the whole premise that he was a calm, respectful, and clumsy guy," Sullivan said. "He could definitely fight back with the best."
Manning was a target as a rookie. He once went to his closet to find all his clothes frozen. They were soaked in a cold tub, folded and placed in the freezer.
During a training camp in Albany, Shaun O'Hara Center bought frogs at a pet store and put one in Manning's sock.
"I didn't know before doing this, but Eli hates reptiles and doesn't like amphibians," said O'Hara. “He has gone mad. I don't think I've ever seen him run so fast. "
Manning quickly took offense. He proved the perfect role – a franchise player who could take it and serve him, a skilled underestimate of his older brothers, Cooper and Peyton.
"The best thing about Eli is that he was never above that," said O'Hara. "And he came with his own backpack for sure."
Working in the age of Coach Tom Coughlin's first discipline, he sometimes solicited accomplices for his covert operations.
"Eli liked to have a wingman because retaliation always seemed to go elsewhere," said Hasselbeck.
During the 2007 training camp at the University of Albany, Manning and Hasselbeck took the bike from Chris Palmer, the Giants quarterback coach at the time. They hung it from the beams of the basketball arena, perhaps fifty feet from the ground.
Most of Manning's victims were teammates. The day the Giants flew to Arizona for the Super Bowl in 2008, they had a brief practice at their headquarters in New Jersey. The attackers returned from the showers to wear business attire for the flight as needed.
Your shoes are gone. They were replaced by replicas Manning had bought, the right sizes, painted bright purple.
"When you ride the team plane, the Mara family is in first class, so you have to get past John Mara to sit down," said O & Hara, referring to the co-owner of the team. "And if you wore sneakers, Tom would fine you."
The royal shoes waited for the men of the line in the seats of the planes; Manning knew how far to joke. He once emptied spare defender Andre Woodson's closet and forged a note from Coughlin on the Giants' stationery, telling Woodson to see him and bring his manual. Manning stopped Woodson before arriving at Coughlin's office.
Waiting games included squirting dye into gloves and shoes ("Your hands look like a Smurf," Hasselbeck said), or applying Icy Hot to deodorant sticks. In the parking lot, Manning left the car an inch from the driver's door, forcing the 300-pound attackers in and out of the passenger side.
"He loves the stupid little daily jokes like that," said O'Hara.
Sometimes Manning and other quarterbacks used their cars to block others on all sides, forcing teammates to wait until the quarterbacks – often the last to leave the training ground – emerged.
(To show that no good joke goes unanswered, kicker Lawrence Tynes once retaliated by letting air out of Manning's car tires and attaching a bicycle pump to the driver's door handle, Hasselbeck said. even realized he was detained by police on the George Washington Bridge.)
Manning remains especially dangerous if you get your hands on someone else's phone. It has a reputation for clandestinely swapping smartphone screen savers with shocking photos or changing the font to an indecipherable language.
"He did this to me the other night," said O'Hara.
At a Saturday Night Live birthday party a few years ago, comedian Kevin Nealon asked for a picture with Peyton Manning. Eli Manning took the picture and returned the smartphone to Nealon, who later realized that all of his text had been changed to Mandarin. Nealon spotted Manning later that night.
"He pretended to fix it and wasn't fix it yet" Nealon told Conan O'Brien in 2015. "I had to go to the Apple store."
In practice, Manning turned the mundane into fun. During quarterback pass competitions, such as a reserve lined up to achieve a victory goal, Manning would throw a ball over the head or throw the air pass with his own perfect pitch.
"Hey, you have to bid, no excuses," Manning would say with a shrug and a straight face.
During the parties, Manning was a subversive photo bomber, filling his mouth with a brownie and then flashing a muddy smile. And if you're spending the night somewhere with Manning around, check the thermostat before you nap. Can be set to 89 degrees.
"It's nice when you sleep," said DeOssie. "So you wake up in the Sahara in the middle of the night."
This is part of Manning's legacy with the giants.
"He was able to be a consistent pro, someone who was supposed to be in the Hall of Fame someday, and yet he was never impassive, it was great with the media and with teammates," Sullivan said. "And he had that sense of humor, so I bet some people would be surprised."
Oh, and he helped beat the Patriots in the Super Bowl. Twice.