INDIANAPOLIS — Eli Manning has lived in the shadow of older brother, Peyton, all of his life.
Whatever successes Eli has had on the football field, they often paled in comparison to his brother.
It was that way in high school and then in college.
Then came the pros, and something began to change. Peyton was the first pick in the 1998 National Football League draft. Eli, meanwhile, went first in 2004. Peyton was the winning quarterback and game MVP in Super Bowl XLI. Eli did the same a year later in Super Bowl XLII.
This year, though, Eli has a golden opportunity to get a leg up on his celebrated sibling. The "baby" of the Manning family has a chance to move to the front of the class by annexing a second Super Bowl title.
If that happens — if Eli can lead his New York Giants team to a second championship game victory over the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XLVI Sunday at Lucas Oil Stadium — he can make a statement.
"If you play this game long enough, you realize how precious each season is and how precious these opportunities are. You don’t know if you’re going to get a chance to play in another Super Bowl," Manning acknowledged during the Giants' initial press conference of Super Bowl Week.
"You understand that when you have a good team, when you have good players, you have an opportunity to win a championship, you don’t want to let those things slip away because you just don’t know when you’re going to get that opportunity."
Being the youngest of three highly competitive brothers, Eli Manning learned early to stand up for himself. A second Most Valuable Player award in the Super Bowl could go a long way to helping him to escape the giant shadow that Peyton Manning casts.
Beating the Patriots, the long-time nemesis and rival of his older brother's team, and doing it in his older brother’s home stadium, would be extra special.
"You understand that (New England is) very talented. They have the ability to score a lot of points. The defense has the ability to keep to a minimum of points. So it's going to be a great challenge on both sides of the ball to do our jobs," Eli Manning stressed.
He was reminded by a reporter of a comment Peyton had made while receiving his MVP award after leading Indianapolis to a Super Bowl XLI win over the Chicago Bears. Big brother took the opportunity to brag a little about his younger brother, saying that Eli can and will win Super Bowl.
"I think he was just trying to be nice at the time," Eli said. "To see Peyton after that game down in the locker room, seeing that smile on his face, and spending a lot of time with him over the next couple months after winning that Super Bowl, it definitely made you jealous."
Watching his brother enjoy winning a Super Bowl championship was significant, Eli recalled.
"I think that made a bigger impact on me than his comments. But obviously there's not a better feeling from a professional standpoint than knowing you’ve done your job better than anyone else. That's what we’re fighting for."
Tom James is a reporter for The Tribune Star in Terre Haute, Ind.