By: Dan Schawbel
I spoke to Eli Manning, the quarterback for the New York Giants, about the importance of philanthropy in his career, what most people don't know about being a top athlete, the biggest mistakes he's made in his career, and his best pieces of career advice. Manning recently took part in the 14th Annual BTIG Commissions for Charity Day, which brings together celebrities, as well as stock traders, to raise money for hundreds of charities.
Manning was drafted as the first overall pick in the 2004 NFL Draft by the San Diego Chargers and immediately traded to the New York Giants, who in return gave up a package highlighted by fourth overall selection Philip Rivers. He holds Giants franchise records for most passing yards, touchdown passes and completed passes in a career, and the NFL record for most fourth-quarter touchdown passes in a season. He led the Giants to victory in Super Bowl XLII and Super Bowl XLVI, defeating the New England Patriots in both games.
Dan Schawbel: Why are you participating in Charity Day and what does philanthropy mean to you?
Eli Manning: The reason I participated in the BTIG Charity Day was because it's a wonderful opportunity to raise money for a charity that I am involved with and also bring awareness to it. The charity that I was raising money for is the Tackle Kids Cancer Initiative through Hackensack UMC. It is a pediatric cancer center that helps treat kids that have different forms of cancer and support them and also work on finding a cure for pediatric cancers.
Schawbel: Has giving back always been part of your life? Why is it so important that successful people give back to their communities?
Manning: Philanthropy has always been very important to me. I think it started in college by just giving my time to visit mostly kids that were sick and special needs kids as well. I tried to get them to smile, have a wonderful day and help lift their spirits in some way. Over the years, it has evolved. I still try to make visits to hospitals and lift spirits, but also make donations to have a greater impact and raising awareness for mostly in children’s health issues.
I think giving back in some way has always been part of my life since college and early on in my NFL career. I have added different charities that I’ve been involved with and you just see the great impact they have on people's lives. Sometimes you just try to make a child smile or help the family that's dealing with the sick child. Also, it's important to give them someone to sit and talk to. It makes me feel like I am helping out and that's a good feeling.
I think that successful people give back to their community because they have been blessed in some way, and they understand that there are people out there who are hurting and are less fortunate. You have to try to help them and see if you can give them a break or get them through those tough times.
Schawbel: What do most people not know about what it takes to be a world class athlete?
Manning: It takes a lot of work, a lot of commitment from a young age and you have to make a commitment to miss out on things that are appealing, and make sacrifice to do your job better. It might start at a high school level, missing parties on Friday and Saturday night or things going on in the spring or in the summer that you had to miss because you got playing for a basketball tournament or a baseball tournament.
You learn them, make those commitments and in the NFL, there are more opportunities. You have time off, but you still have to be committed to getting your workouts in when no one's looking. You have to miss out on fun nights, different parties and different events so that you can work out and be ready for the next season.
Schawbel: What was the biggest mistake you made in your career and what are you the most proud of?
Manning: There's always mistakes, but I try not to worry about those too much. Forget about them, move on and try not to make them again.
The thing that I am most proud of is that I'm the same person that I was when I got drafted thirteen years ago. I have tried to keep my strong work etiquette, work ethic and also, I just try to be a good person. I try to be nice to people and now, as father, I try to take those same principles and make decisions on trying to do the right thing, whatever circumstances come up.
Schawbel: What are your top pieces of career advice?
Manning: I have been very blessed where I’ve had an opportunity to find a career path that I love to do. If you can find something that you truly love to do, then give it your complete effort and your complete focus and make a commitment towards it. That's a wonderful thing!
If you decide that you want to get married, pick the right husband or wife and make that work. Be just as committed to that relationship as you are to your career path.