Eli Manning understands what it means to be named to a Pro Bowl roster, having been raised in the NFL traditions and steeped in the lore of the league.
“I don’t really understand the whole Pro Bowl thing, but it means a lot,” the defensive end said. “It means I’m doing good.”
Yes. Yes it does.
Pierre-Paul has been the Giants’ best defensive player this year, only his second in the NFL after spending most of his childhood and adolescence ignoring or avoiding the sport of football. He and Manning were named to the NFC’s Pro Bowl roster today, an amazing achievement for Pierre-Paul considering he wasn’t even on the fan ballot. Fan voting accounts for one third of the selection process, but his 15.5 sacks and 81 tackles were enough to overcome that slight.
Pierre-Paul may not know what the “whole Pro Bowl thing” is about, but he had a feeling that he would become one of the league’s top players. The Giants needed him to be with Justin Tuck and Osi Umenyiora – two Pro Bowl defensive ends – battling injuries all season.
“With Tuck and Osi being out, it gave me a chance to show my coaches that I can perform at a high level, even though they didn’t expect me to have a breakout season,” Pierre-Paul said. “I just feel the joy right now. I’m having a good feeling even though I knew I could do it all along. I’m happy because everybody sees it now. They know that I am one of the key players that the Giants have on their team.”
That started to show itself to everyone in the first preseason game, which is also when Pierre-Paul began to realize that he could dominate at this level.
“When we first started preseason and we played against Carolina and I recorded two sacks in that game, I said, ‘Okay, this year is my year, I can do it this year,’” Pierre-Paul said. “That’s when I was like, ‘Let me just play to my full potential’ and that’s what I’ve been doing ever since. However many snaps I play for, when I’m on the field I’m going 120 percent. Not 100 percent, but 120. That’s how I’ve played ever since.
“Honestly, I told my best friend, ‘This year I’m going to do way better than I did last year because I know what I’m going into, I know what to expect,’” he added. “Last year, I didn’t know what to expect and I didn’t know too much of the playbook. This year I knew that everyone was starting from scratch again and I knew that I was going to have a breakout season this year. Nobody else did, but I told my best friend and he was like, ‘Yeah, I believe you.’ And sure enough, I did.”
Maybe Eli can explain the Pro Bowl thing to him on their flight to Hawaii.