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TWISH: Eli Manning refuses to play for San Diego, still drafted by Chargers

On April 24, 2004, quarterback Eli Manning was selected with the first overall pick in the NFL draft by the San Diego Chargers. He was later traded to the New York Giants, and would go on to have an incredible career with the Giants, leading them to two Super Bowl victories and becoming one of the best players in franchise history.

At the time of the draft, Manning was considered one of the top quarterback prospects in the country. Following a successful senior season at the University of Mississippi leading them to a 10-3 record and a Cotton Bowl victory, Manning officially declared for the NFL draft. He made it clear that if the Chargers were to draft him, he would not play for the team.

San Diego still picked Manning with the first overall selection, with the Giants drafted quarterback Philp Rivers. 30 minutes after Manning was drafted, he was traded to New York in exchange for Rivers, a third-round pick and New York’s first and fifth-round picks in the following draft. The trade turned out to be a win-win, with Rivers becoming an eight-time Pro Bowler for the Chargers. 

Manning struggled in his rookie season, as most young quarterbacks do, but he showed flashes of the talent that would make him a star in the league. In his second season, Manning started to come into his own, leading the Giants to an improbable playoff run that included road victories over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Dallas Cowboys. The Giants fell short in the playoffs that year, but it was clear that Manning was going to be a problem for years to come.

In 2007, Manning cemented his place in Giants history when he led the team to a Super Bowl XLI victory over Tom Brady and the undefeated New England Patriots. Manning was named the Super Bowl Most Valuable Player after leading a game-winning fourth-quarter drive, culminating in a touchdown pass to Plaxico Burress. Many consider the Giants winning the biggest upset of all time, and the result was aided by an unreal helmet catch from New York’s David Tyree to virtually save the game.

Four years later, Manning led the Giants to another Super Bowl victory over the Patriots in a Super Bowl rematch. Manning was named Super Bowl MVP for the second and final time in his career after another clutch late-game performance. He once again led a game-winning drive and secured the second Super Bowl ring for the Giants in less than five years.

Throughout his career, Manning was known for his unflappable demeanor and his ability to perform in pressure-packed situations. He was never the flashiest or most talented quarterback in the league, but he was always a winner. He retired after the 2019 season as the Giants’ all-time leader in passing yards and touchdown passes. His jersey number 10 was retired by the team in a ceremony in 2020. The Giants’ decision to draft Eli Manning in 2004 was one of the most important moments in the franchise’s history. Manning’s two Super Bowl victories and his legendary performances in those games will always be remembered by Giant fans.

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