When you’re grilling, you have several choices available to you. There’s a standard charcoal option, you can grill over wood if you’re feeling adventurous, and even gas grills can be enhanced with things like smoke boxes full of wood chips. But Eli Manning’s approach is pretty direct, and a far cry from some of the elaborate plays he coordinated during his time on the field. He prefers propane and minimal fuss: “Keep it simple, keep it easy, make sure it’s easy to light. Just whatever’s convenient. Get it hot, throw it on there, and get it going. Usually, we’re rocking and rolling, and we’ve gotta get it done quick.”
But that makes sense when you consider the Super Bowl winner’s attitude to the concept of tailgating on the whole. Tailgating isn’t about charred hotdogs and burgers. It isn’t even for Manning. The secret ingredient every good tailgating session needs isn’t actually the tailgating food because it isn’t even related to food.
The former quarterback said: “Tailgating and Sundays and football is just a great time to get together with family and friends and enjoy that day. That’s what it’s all about. That’s what I enjoy having missed so much of that growing up. To be around my kids, to be around family and friends. There’s so much going on with schedules and work and sports, so it’s a great time to get together, enjoy some good food, good company, and to wind down the weekend.”
Manning’s family-focused view of tailgating isn’t surprising when you consider his life so far. The NFL legend’s weekends were always busy, and he was playing at the events the tailgating surrounded. However, despite being so close he could smell the food hitting the grill, the ex-professional athlete’s other duties prevented him from taking part.
“When I was playing, I wasn’t able to tailgate before or after. For me, even now, it’s more about getting together with family and friends. That’s what Sundays are about now.” I missed so many weekends over the last 20 years, now I’m trying to make up for it. That’s why I’m trying to make this a weekly ritual,” Manning said.
As with every rule, there was an exception. That exception was Manning’s time at college; when he managed to meet up with family post-game. The New York Giants star reminisces: “I went to college at Old Miss and that’s something they are very famous for is their tailgating and how they do it. They do it in a place called “The Grove,” — it’s a 10-acre field, no cars or trucks are allowed in it. So it’s all tables, tablecloths, there are extremes where they bring china out. It’s a great time. I did go after games when I was playing. My parents would have a tent and get to go. It was a great time to see my family, see some friends, bring some teammates over, and a good way to celebrate after a game.”
When confronted with the fact his two-time Super Bowl sparring partner Tom Brady may come out of retirement, Manning was adamant he wasn’t going to lace up his boots again with the goal of ruining another one of the New England Patriots legend’s Sunday afternoons. “I’m done. Three years done, I don’t miss the hits, I don’t miss a lot of it. I’m good doing, what I’m doing.”
These days Manning has other focuses, like his endorsement deal with popular bread company King’s Hawaiian. Manning maintains he and his family’s favorite recipes come wrapped in the sweet buns — and singled out the pretzel rolls and a turkey ranch slider as a personal favorite. He’s currently starring in a commercial alongside his brother Peyton, as well as hosting giveaways on the Slider Sundays website.
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