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Eli Manning Reflects on Balancing Fatherhood With Football: It Was So ‘Challenging’ (Exclusive)

From football to fatherhood! Eli Manning struggled to succeed as both an athlete and a parent while playing for the NFL.

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“It’s just hard,” the Louisiana native, 41, exclusively told Us Weekly on Thursday, January 13, while promoting his Frito-Lay and PepsiCo “Road to the Super Bowl” commercial. “You kind of try to make it up in the offseason. You are away a lot. Your mind and your focus is so [tied up in football] even when you’re home. It’s still kind of like, ‘I’ve got preparation to do. What about this play? I’ve got to get ready for this game.’”

The former quarterback noted that he worked to “be in the moment” as much as possible, saying, “I tried to find times to do something specific with my kids, [whatever] they wanted to do. It’s always a challenge.”

The University of Mississippi grad became a dad in 2011 when his daughter Ava, now 10, arrived, followed by Lucy, 8, Caroline, 6, and Charles, 2, in 2013, 2015 and 2019, respectively. The New York Giants player retired from the NFL in 2020.

Eli Manning Reflects Balancing Fatherhood With Football
New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning looks on from the bench during the second half of an NFL preseason football game against the New England Patriots, in East Rutherford on August 30, 2018. Mark Lennihan/AP/Shutterstock

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After he stopped playing football, the two-time Super Bowl champion experienced a “big adjustment” as a stay-at-home dad — especially amid the coronavirus pandemic.

“All of a sudden, I’m basically a substitute teacher very quickly,” Manning, who shares the little ones with wife Abby McGrew, explained. “I’m teaching about rhombuses and trapezoids and quadrilaterals. … It was obviously different. We had some great moments, some great bike rides. I’ve enjoyed it.”

Manning added that he was able to coach his daughters’ basketball and softball teams, gushing, “There are a lot of new activities I get to do that I’m enjoying [while] being around my kids and my family.”

While Ava, Lucy and Caroline play other sports, they are also “into” football. Manning joked that even though his eldest stays up to watch games with him, he isn’t sure whether she actually likes the sport or just “staying up a little late past her bedtime.”

Eli Manning Reflects Balancing Fatherhood With Football
New York Giants Eli Manning stands on the stage with his children and the Vince Lombardi Trophy after he speaks at a press conference announcing his retirement from playing quarterback in the NFL at the Quest Diagnostics Training Center near MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey on Friday, January 24, 2020. John Angelillo/UPI/Shutterstock

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He told Us, “If I’m watching at night, she definitely sits in. … They’re growing up, going to Giants games, watching Ole Miss. They’re definitely asking, ‘Hey, who are we rooting for today? Who is this playing?’ They want to pick a team and root for them.”

Manning’s kids can now watch him on TV, thanks to Frito-Lay and PepsiCo’s “Road to the Super Bowl” with their dad, uncle Peyton Manning, Victor Cruz, Terry Bradshaw and Jerome Bettis.

The former athletes sing Olivia Rodrigo’s “Good for You” in the ad, which Eli called “challenging.” He explained, “I just kind of went with the attitude. I just gotta bring the energy. You gotta go into that and just go all out and just bring the energy. I know it’s not gonna sound good, but at least if I put in the effort, I’ll get some credit. Maybe.”

With reporting by Christina Garibaldi

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