The Derek Jeter lessons Eli Manning took from private friendship

The struggling rookie quarterback’s phone rang and an icon was on the other line to deliver a pep talk.

Sixteen years before the memorable week that saw Yankees great Derek Jeter selected to the Baseball Hall of Fame and Eli Manning retire from the Giants, they were just two of the biggest stars in New York.

Jeter had four World Series rings when Manning arrived as the No. 1 pick in the 2004 NFL Draft.

“[Jeter] called me my rookie year, when I was starting and lost a few games,” Manning recalled Friday, as he announced his retirement. “He talked to me about how it would get easier, stay the course, be yourself and keep working, and things do improve. We’ve had a good relationship over the years.”

Joined together as superstars who thrived in the pressure cooker — winning championships, putting teammates first and staying out of trouble — that has eaten alive so many peers, Jeter and Manning maintained a private friendship over the years.

“After that, he was someone who I watched closely,” Manning said. “How he conducted himself, how he dealt with the media, how he dealt with fans, how he worked hard, how he stayed humble in all circumstances after so many championships he was winning that he was on top of the world. I took a lot of notes from how he handled New York. He’s been a great role model for me all these years.”

Eli Manning; Derek Jeter
Eli Manning; Derek JeterCharles Wenzelberg

So, when Manning heard that Jeter fell one vote short of a unanimous Hall of Fame selection by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America, he looked out at the crowd of media and cracked wise.

“I’m just trying to figure out which one of y’all didn’t vote for him,” Manning said. “There’s only one of you, so I know you are probably in here.”

Manning’s Pro Football Hall of Fame candidacy has been a hotly debated topic this week and will remain so during the five-year waiting period. He has the stats and the two Super Bowl MVPs to make it a no-brainer — except for his .500 regular-season record and lack of an All-Pro selection.

The Giants will retire Manning’s No. 10 and induct him into the franchise’s Ring of Honor this season. But the Hall of Fame is decided by a panel of 48 voters.

In typical Manning fashion, he took a viral topic of interest and brushed it aside.

“That’s not a concern,” Manning said of his place in the Hall of Fame. “My focus now is on reliving the great moments and great memories with my teammates and my family. I’ll let everything work itself out.”

For more on Eli’s retirement, listen to the latest episode of the “Blue Rush” podcast:

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