What could be better than engineering the game-winning drive to beat Tom Brady in Super Bowl 46? For most quarterbacks, riding away in the Corvette awarded to the game MVP would have capped a perfect day. And then there was Eli Manning.
The New York Giants quarterback tried to avoid accepting the keys with the same determination he showed in dodging New England Patriots pass rushers that night in Indianapolis in 2012.
It made for a truly odd awards ceremony.
The Giants drove to a last-minute victory in Super Bowl 46
Super Bowl 46 lacked the great storyline of the Giants-Patriots game four years earlier. That game saw New York pull out a 17-14 victory to dash New England’s hopes of the first perfect NFL season since the 1972 Miami Dolphins.
Still, there was some intrigue. The Giants clawed their way into the playoffs by winning three of their last four games to finish 9-7. They beat the San Francisco 49ers with an overtime field goal to reach Super Bowl 46. The Patriots sailed through a 13-3 year by running the table after a Week 9 loss to the Giants.
The title game at Lucas Oil Stadium extended the string of Super Bowl thrillers. New England led 17-9 after an Aaron Hernandez touchdown catch early in the third quarter, but New York chipped away with two Lawrence Tynes field goals to close within 17-15 entering the fourth quarter.
The game came down to the Giants starting from their own 12-yard line with 3:46 to play. Manning threaded the needle with a 38-yard throw down the left sideline to Mario Manningham. Two more completions to Manningham and one to Hakeem Nicks drove the Giants inside the New England 20.
Three plays later, Ahmad Bradshaw’s 6-yard run gave the Giants a 21-17 lead. Brady could not engineer a winning drive, and the Giants walked off with their fourth Vince Lombardi Trophy.
Manning didn’t want the Corvette
Manning was a logical choice for the MVP honor and the car that accompanied it after completing 30 of 40 attempts for 296 yards and directing the Giants on their crucial down the stretch.
Dan Patrick was working Super Bowl 46 for NBC. His postgame assignment was to handle the awards and interviews on the field. The task left him with one of the oddest memories from his many years covering sports: Patrick tried hard to present the Corvette to Manning, and the quarterback tried harder not to accept it.
“So we’re on the podium in front of 100 million people. He walks off the podium and I’m reading the card saying, ‘Eli Manning, you are the winner of this black on black Corvette,’” Patrick said on The Dan Le Batard Show with Stugotz, as transcribed by Audacy.com. “I have to turn and yell to him on the podium as he’s walking down the steps, ‘Get your damn keys! Come up and take this thing.’”
So what was Manning’s issue? According to Patrick, Manning had an endorsement arrangement with a group of Toyota dealerships.
“He didn’t want to be seen with something that said Chevrolet,” Patrick said. “I mean, imagine you just win the Super Bowl, beat the Patriots, beat Tom Brady, and he’s walking off the stage because he doesn’t want to be seen with the keys to the Corvette.”
What became of Manning’s Corvette?
Even if the Corvette didn’t thrill Manning, he earned it and and the sponsors delivered it to his home. He presumably drove it over the years, perhaps donning a fake nose and mustache to avoid being spotted. Ultimately, however, the two-time Super Bowl-winning quarterback did a very cool thing with the sweet ride.
As the pandemic began gripping the country early last spring, Fanatics founder Michael Rubin launched the “All In Challenge,” a fundraiser to provide food to frontline workers and the needy. Celebrities stepped up to donate items that the charity auctioned off on the way to raising $60 million by the end of 2020.
Manning donated his Corvette and offered to drive it to the home of the winning bidder. That person turned out to be a Denver resident who paid $140,000, USA Today reported.
The retired quarterback posted the video of the handoff on Twitter late last year.
His tweet referred to the moment as “bittersweet.” It couldn’t be too bitter, though, since Manning will always have the memory of beating Brady and the Patriots in two Super Bowls.