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September 14, 2021

Podcast 140: NFL Champion Eli Manning on Training Your Mind and Reducing Injury

This week’s podcast guest is NFL great Eli Manning.

By Will Ahmed

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Eli Manning spent 16 seasons in the NFL, quarterbacking the New York Giants to two Super Bowl victories. He holds nearly every passing record in Giants franchise history, and put together a career that many argue is worthy of the Hall of Fame.

From 2004 to 2017, Eli started 210 consecutive games–the third longest consecutive starts streak in league history. He explains how he stayed healthy, and how he overcame injuries that would have sidelined other players.

Eli also discusses his upbringing in the Manning family and his journey to the NFL, why training your mind is as important as training your body, and how an unshakable belief in his teammates played a key role in the famous David Tyree catch in the Super Bowl.

Make sure to check out Eli and Peyton Manning calling Monday Night Football this season on ESPN2 and ESPN+.

Stay healthy and stay in the green!

 

Eli Manning Podcast Quotes and Highlights

2:54 – A Football Family. Eli talks about his upbringing and how his dad, former NFL quarterback Archie Manning, never pressured his kids to play football. “I think a lot of people assume since Peyton and I went on to be professional athletes that [my dad] had this master plan. … Nothing could be further from the truth.”

5:43 – Learning from Peyton. Eli talks about the influence his older brother, Hall of Fame quarterback Peyton Manning, had on him growing up. “I saw him go off to college. He would come back from college during his spring break and he would start teaching me some of the things that he was learning in college and some of the drills. I was just a sponge. I thought, ‘I want to know more.’”

8:54 – The 2004 Draft. Eli went 1st overall in the 2004 NFL draft, but famously said he would not play for the San Diego Chargers, the team that drafted him. He was traded to the New York Giants shortly after being selected by San Diego. “I wasn’t all that concerned about that. I didn’t have an ego about being [drafted first,]” Eli says. “I obviously didn’t have any ego. I said I’d rather not be the first pick taken and go a little bit later and try to go to a different organization.”

12:19 – Teamwork. “I love being a part of a team. I loved my teammates. That was always my inspiration to work harder, to be accountable, to be at practice every day. Even when I was hurt or injured, I tried to play in every game because I wanted to do it for my teammates.”

14:30 – Durability. Eli started 210 consecutive games, the third-longest streak in the history of the NFL. “Getting a great routine was helpful. I think also just the mindset. I definitely had some injuries [during my career]. I was told by doctors, ‘I think you’ll be out two to three weeks.’ … [I would say,] ‘I plan to play this week.’ I wanted to be out there.”

18:31 – Toradol. Eli says he used Toradol to bounce back from a separated shoulder at the beginning of the 2017 season. “Back then in those days, they had some special medicine that has been outlawed since that took away a lot of pain. … There definitely was a lineup of people taking a little shot of that every Sunday.”

21:51 – How The 2007 Giants Found Their Belief. Eli says Giants coach Tom Coughlin’s decision to play his starters in the final regular season game in 2007 against the Patriots gave the team belief that they could beat the Patriots in the Super Bowl. “He came in right away to that first meeting Monday morning and said, ‘Hey, the starters are playing, we’re playing the whole game. We’re going to win this game.’ It was a great message by him.”

24:38 – David Tyree’s Catch. “I remember going up to him and saying, ‘Hey David, did you catch the ball?’ He said, ‘Yeah, I caught it.’ I said, ‘David, don’t lie to me. It does no good to lie to me in this situation, you’re a Christian man, tell me the truth, did you catch it?’ He said, ‘I promise you, I caught the ball.’”

27:35 – The Final Practice Before the Super Bowl. Eli shares a story about David Tyree’s practice performance before the Super Bowl. “He had the worst practice in the history of practices,” Eli says of Tyree. “He couldn’t catch a cold. I’ve gone back and watched the practice. He dropped eight passes, I threw him nine and he dropped eight.” In a post-practice phone call with Peyton, Eli says he deliberately talked up Tyree’s performance. “I said, ‘The good news is David Tyree had the best practice he’s ever had. He’s going to be outstanding on gameday.’ I just thought if I can just lie to myself and make myself somehow feel good about the situation, maybe it’ll be OK.”

30:49 – Mental Performance. Eli says he first started working with a sports psychologist in 2007, the same year he won his first Super Bowl. He says he used visualization before games to prepare himself for the moment.

34:00 – Training the Mind. “You’ve got to train the mind as well. You have to train it to be sharp, strong, and resilient. The season is a grind and there are going to be ups and downs from the season and series to series, there’s going to be so many things [you encounter.] So you have got to be mentally sharp through all these things.”

36:30 – Using WHOOP. “I started WHOOP in retirement. You should’ve come up with this thing 10 years ago,” Eli jokes with Will. “Why were you so lazy?” Eli says he’s learned a lot about recovery from wearing WHOOP and how much of a toll alcohol takes on your body. “I wasn’t drinking a ton, but just enough after a game. I thought, ‘I’ve got 6 days before the next one, this is a time to celebrate and be with your family.’ But just how long it takes for that Wednesday practice, I would not have been fully recovered. Having that information would have been a game-changer.”

41:15 – Performing with Low Recoveries. “That’s part of being an athlete. There are going to be times when you’re not at your best and you know it. You’ve got injuries or you’re sick or you’ve got stuff going on and you’ve got your mind wandering. You’ve got to find a way for those three hours to dial it in.”

43:33 – Peyton Manning’s HRV. Peyton is also on WHOOP and, according to Eli, is fascinated by his heart rate variability. “Every time I’m with him he asks me, ‘What’s your HRV? Let me see your HRV.’ He’s very worried about being too low. He’s very much addicted to it.”

44:08 – Monday Night Football. Eli and Peyton will take part in an expanded Monday Night Football broadcast on ESPN2 and ESPN+ this season.

 

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Will Ahmed

Will Ahmed is the Founder and CEO of WHOOP, which has developed next generation wearable technology for optimizing human performance. WHOOP today works with everyone from professional athletes to fitness enthusiasts to executives. Ahmed has raised $400 million from top investors and has an active advisory board that consists of some of the world’s most notable cardiologists, technologists, and designers. He wrote “The Feedback Tool: Measuring Fitness, Intensity, and Recovery,” which sparked the underlying physiology and engineering for his work today. Ahmed was named a 2011 Harvard College Scholar for finishing in the top 10% of his class and a CSA Scholar Athlete; he captained the Harvard Men’s Varsity Squash Team. He was also recently named to Forbes 30 Under 30 and Boston Business Journal 40 Under 40.

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