Dozens of future female football stars were treated Saturday to special instruction from a current and former New York Giants star: Quarterbacks Eli Manning and Daniel Jones.
Manning, the retired celebrity with two Super Bowl rings, and Jones, fresh off his $160 million contract, ran the girls through a series of drills on the turf at Manasquan High School while imparting wisdom on everything from footwork to gripping the ball to running routes. They fielded questions about growing up, playing in the NFL and everything in between.
“Most of my childhood was playing pick-up football games at recess, at school or in the back yard,” Manning said as he looked around the school’s new state-of-the-art field house. “This is just a continuance of that.”
The quarterbacks weren’t talking about Jones’ recently signed mega-contract. Or that he’ll be surrounded by more offensive wealth than at any time in his five years with the Giants, thanks to an aggressive off-season strategy that brought back running back Saquon Barkley and receivers Darius Slayton and Sterling Shepard while signing other free agents and trading for a big-name tight end.
The morning was about the girls and growing the game.
And Manning working on his standup routine.
When asked about the importance of education, he jumped on the question first: “I went to Ole’ Miss,” Manning said. “Daniel here couldn’t get in, so he ended up at Duke.”
How do you keep focus after messing up?
“I’ll let Daniel handle that one, he has a lot more experience with that,” Manning quipped.
“What music gets you pumped up?” a girl asked. Manning gestured toward Jones and said, “Shakira.”
And when a girl asked Jones who his favorite player was while growing up, Manning jumped in again: “If you say Peyton, I’ll punch you in the face!”
The clinic was organized by Steve Antonucci, a Manasquan resident who is the longtime head football coach at Middletown South. The Giants and NFL are heavily invested in youth football initiatives, Antonucci said, and a small, intimate event with two of the area’s biggest stars is proof of the the Giants’ commitment to the community.
“Look, flag football is not just a starting point to lead into tackle,” Manning said. “It’s a great game that girls and boys can all play and [it provides] an opportunity to go on. Hopefully, it becomes a college sport. They are maybe going into the Olympics in ‘28.
“As a dad, as a fan of sports, it’s a great way to get more people involved in football, and find a different way. It doesn’t have to be tackle. Flag football is an awesome sport.”
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Andy Mills may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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