Eli Manning tells graduates “embracing awkward” is beneficial

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Giants quarterback Daniel Jones admitted it was “a little bit awkward” last year, replacing Eli Manning as the team’s starter while the two-time Super Bowl MVP was still there.

And Manning himself said that actually has value, as long as you accept it.

Via Paul Schwartz of the New York Post, the former Giants quarterback said during an online commencement speech that learning how to handle the unexpected is key.

“You see, I don’t mind being in awkward situations or doing things I don’t necessarily want to do,’’ Manning said. “Like becoming the Giants backup quarterback after winning two Super Bowls and walking away with the MVP. Embracing awkward is worth cultivating, because life, like this graduation, rarely goes as planned.”

Turning his surreal last year in the NFL into an absurd example for a virtual graduation seems fitting, and Manning was at his self-deprecating best while talking to students who can’t walk through a ceremony because of coronavirus lockdowns.

“What would you do if you weren’t afraid?” he said. “No one can vaccinate themselves against the unknown. No matter what the near future looks like, your life can only be diminished if you allow it to be. No one else can quarantine the memories, friendship or wisdom you’ve accumulated in the past four years.

“Don’t downgrade your dreams to fit today’s halting reality. Don’t let the new normal be an excuse for standing in place. It is up to you not to become the class that never was. If you haven’t already, it’s time to discover your own unique grade of rocket fuel and to blast off. Trust yourself. Your future trajectory is up to you.”

For the moment, Manning’s own path is unclear, as he’s said he’s taking a year off before deciding his next steps.