HOUSTON — He’s the Mann of the Year.
Or at least one of them.
Giants quarterback Eli Manning was named co-winner of the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year at Saturday night’s NFL Honors awards show, the first Giant to win it in the 47-year history of the award. He shared the honor with Larry Fitzgerald of the Cardinals.
“I challenge everyone here to help some person in need, you choose, but go out of your way to make a difference in some person’s life,” Manning said after receiving the award. “I promise you it’s worth it.”
The award had been shared twice before, by Derrick Brooks and Jim Flanigan in 2000 and by Drew Brees and LaDanian Tomlinson in 2006.
“I told Larry earlier in the week that the last time we were up for an award together was the 2003 Heisman Trophy and that didn’t work out for either of us that night,” Manning said. “To come back 13 years later and be up for this award and for both of us to win it is special.”
Fitzgerald and Manning, who was a finalist for the award last year when it went to Anquan Boldin, will be honored again for this award as part of the Super Bowl LI pregame ceremony on Sunday.
“It’s not like if you win it you can say: I don’t have to do anymore charitable work and I’ve reached my goal,” Manning said. “My award is seeing the results, the research, the funding, the children’s smiles and the difference you make in the community.”
Manning has worked with charities such as the March of Dimes, Guiding Eyes for the Blind, American Red Cross, the Scholastic’s ClassroomCare program, and he and his wife founded the Eli and Abby Manning Children’s Clinics in Jackson, Miss.
His current project is his involvement with “Tackle Kids’ Cancer,” an initiative with Hackensack University Medical Center. In addition to raising money and awareness, Manning spends time with patients and doctors at the hospital’s pediatric cancer center.
“I’ve just been involved in children’s charities for a long time and helping children,” Manning said. “That’s the main focus and concern. I think that was the toughest thing for me to see, but also that’s what makes you want to help those kids and those families that are going through it. It definitely has changed my perspective the last couple years having kids of my own. I think I used to just look at the child and say I want to help them. Now, I look at the child and the family. I see it from the parent side of it and what they’re going through to have a child that’s sick and in hospitals. I know they want to do everything possible to get that child well. I look at it from that aspect. I put myself in their shoes and what you’d be doing if that was your child that was sick. You want to do anything possible to make sure they have the best research, medicine, hospitals and service they can get. That’s what drives me to try and help them.”
Manning said he was glad to win the award, not for himself but for the charities with which he works -- Nationwide, the sponsor for the award, and the NFL Foundation donated $50,000 to Manning’s charities -- as well as the team for which he plays.
“For the Giants, they’ve never had a Walter Payton Man of the Year Award winner for the organization,” Manning said. “Just to be recognized for the works, it’s always nice.”