Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Jeter proves to be worthy role model for Eli

Eli Manning's star has never shined brighter as he leads his New York Giants into their 2nd Super Bowl in the past 4 years.

As accomplished and appreciated as Manning is now, he was not always held in that regard. Playing professional sports in the largest fishbowl of a media market like New York is not easy, as there are very high expectations to manage and distractions to avoid.

Manning has several role models that he can use as reference points in his career - both his father (Archie) and brother (Peyton) have had stellar NFL careers themselves - but when it came to holding himself up to a specific standard, New York Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter was was used.

"Derek's a guy, from the time I first came here, that I definitely have paid a lot of attention to," Manning said last week after a Giants practice. "He's a great player, but he's also a guy who really shows you what you have to do to succeed in a place like New York. The way he's handled himself on the field, off the field. The way he's dealt with all of the attention without letting it affect the way he does his job. He's done that better than anybody."

As Manning prepares to play the New England Patriots on Sunday in his second Super Bowl, he's the focus of much attention and hype. There is an urge to rate him, to compare him, to discuss his place in the pantheon of quarterbacks -- both current and all time. He is compared to his brother, the great Indianapolis Colts quarterback Peyton Manning. He is compared to Tom Brady, the three-time Super Bowl winner he's trying to beat in the big game for the second time in five years. But the best comparison for Manning may actually be a guy who plays a different sport in the same town.

Jeter has succeeded as a New York superstar without once saying anything to get himself in trouble or embarrass his organization. He is a quiet leader whose entire team respects and follows him without question. At a young age, he established himself as the kind of player who excels in clutch situations, and the way he does that is by remaining exactly the same regardless of the intensity of the situation. By refusing to let the game become too big or too important at times when it feels that way to many other players, he effectively raises his game at the critical moment. All of these same things can be said about Eli Manning, and it's no accident.

"Playing in this market, you learn quickly that you've got to be immune to the distractions," Manning said. "And watching Derek and seeing how he's kept his private life private and managed to keep the focus on the field and on the job he has to do, that's a big help for someone like me. That's what you've got to do, and he's the ultimate example."

The examples set by both Manning and Jeter are tremendous models to follow - not only for athletes who are playing in the magnified setting of New York, but for any athlete that hold professionalism, commitment and focus in high regard.

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