For Eli Manning, playing in another uniform was never an option.
The Giants great officially announced his retirement Friday after 16 seasons. The two-time Super Bowl MVP and champion could've tried to extend his career elsewhere, but he said "it was important to me to go out as a Giant."
"For most of my life, people have called me 'Easy,'" Manning, 39, closed out his speech saying. "Believe me, there's nothing easy about today. (Late Giants co-owner) Wellington Mara always said, 'Once a Giant, always a Giant.' For me, it's only a Giant."
"From the very first moment, I did it my way. I couldn't be someone other than who I am. Undoubtedly, I would've made the fans, the media, even the front office more comfortable if I was a more rah-rah guy, but that's not me. Ultimately, I choose to believe that my teammates and the fans learned to appreciate that. They knew that what they got was pure, unadulterated Eli.
"I'm walking away today feeling like a New Yorker -- well, at least a Northeasterner -- and that says a lot about a guy from New Orleans who went to Ole Miss," he said.
Giants co-owner and team president John Mara said the team will induct Manning into its Ring of Honor next season and that Manning's No. 10 will be retired.
"For the last 16 years, Eli has meant so much to all of us here at the Giants and also to our fans," Mara said. "We all know about the two Super Bowl MVPs and all the great performances on the field, but just as important was the way he conducted himself on and off the field as the consummate professional, always with dignity, always with class.
"Thank you for everything you've done for the New York Giants for the last 16 years, for being such a role model for our players, for our fans and for everything you've done in our community."
Many of Manning's former teammates attended Friday's news conference, including Michael Strahan, Hakeem Nicks, Brandon Jacobs, Shaun O'Hara and Daniel Jones, who replaced him as the Giants' starting quarterback this past season. Tom Coughlin, who coached Manning to his Super Bowl wins; and Ernie Accorsi, the former general manager who traded for him, were also on hand.