Q&A with Mississippi's head coach David Cutliffe

Who better to discuss New York's first round draft pick than his coach the past few years, David Cutliffe? The Ole Miss head man, who also coached Peyton Manning at Tennessee, took a few minutes out of his schedule to talk with TGI about Eli Manning. <BR><BR>

Q: What are the Giants getting in Eli Manning?

A: You're getting a great player, a brilliant person and just a natural football player that's a fierce competitor. That's a lot of accolades, I know, but he's deserving of them all.

Q: Does he have all the makings of a top overall pick?

A: Oh yes. He's what you're looking for in that league. Including him, I've been fortunate to have three first-rounders at quarterback, and he's definitely that type of player. I don't think they'll have any idea of what they're getting until they're actually out there with him.

Q: What advice did you give him, leaving Mississippi and heading to New York?

A: I told him to focus on being a football player. That's what his job is. His job is not to do anything other than be the best football player he can be. He'll dive into the playbook, focus on being a football player and it will take care of itself. I told him just to make sure that he has fun. It's a challenge, but enjoy it.

Q: What did you see in him that sets him apart from everybody else?

A: He has the total package. He has the physical skills. He has the arm, size and ability to play in that league. But when you factor in his mind – he is a brilliant individual that will understand football far beyond what anyone will realize until he's there. But he is the total mental package to go along with all those physical skills.

Q: Is his calm demeanor going to help or hurt him?

A: He probably dealt with more than you realize down here. From being Archie Manning's son to following Peyton and playing in the Southeastern Conference. He's used to the limelight; he's used to expectations. I think he's happy to be where he is, and that's the most important thing. I think he's looking forward to the challenge.

Q: What are his best physical and mental attributes?

A: Accuracy. Unbelievable accuracy would be the physical attribute. His understanding of the game and decision-making would be the mental attribute that would serve him best.

Q: What does Eli need to work on?

A: I think the biggest issue is the transition from the college game to the NFL. Making the kind of decisions you're going to make in the NFL. What's open up there is different from what's open in our league. I think just the transition to the game itself will be the biggest issue.

Q: How does he compare/differ from Peyton and Archie?

A: Well, I coached Peyton at Tennessee, and they're totally different personalities. I think even Archie is a little different personality. But from a preparation standpoint, their attention to detail, their focus on everything they do is something they all do best. That's a trait of all the Mannings.

Q: What's something you can tell us about Eli that many people don't know?

A: The biggest issue was when he was young. His personality was different. I sat down and had a meeting with him. I was trying to get what he wanted out of the experience – whether he wanted to be the starter, just be here and enjoy going to college, or be a great player. I told him not to answer me now, but to think about it and come back to me. He came back and said, 'I want to be the best I can be and I want to be a great player.' So we went about working that way. I let him decide it, and from that point on his expectations were to work toward being a great player, and he did just that.

Q: What was the toughest situation he had to deal with there and how did he handle it?

A: I think during senior year, the LSU game, against a great defensive team. He kept us in the game, even when things weren't going all that well for us offensively. He kept us in the game, and positioned us to win the game in the fourth quarter. That's what playing in the NFL is all about. He overcame what a lot of people would consider an average game and got us in position to win the game.

Q: Who is Eli Manning the person?

A: He's a great individual, real fun-loving. He was very popular with his teammates. He likes to have a good time. He smiles and laughs easily. He's as personable as he can be. He cares about other people. He truly has that knack of being interested in other people, and it serves him well.

Q: Anything else interesting stand out about Eli off the field?

A: I'm trying to think of what I can tell you (laughs). William Faulkner is a famous author from this area. Eli felt he was leaving here without knowing enough about Faulkner so he went out and bought two or three of his books and read them. That might give you a little insight about the type of person he is.

Q: Are the Giants making the right choice to throw him right in as the starter?

A: I think that's always a difficult decision and I don't know that that decision has been totally made yet, although it appears that way. I would say that if you're investing in the future, it's a good investment.

Q: Does Eli have the same amount of potential and ability to do what his older brother, the reigning league MVP, has already done?

A: I think he does have that potential. Obviously Peyton's at the top of the heap, so to speak, and that's a challenge for anyone. But I think Eli certainly has that potential.

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