Giants celebrate with Obama

Updated: June 12, 2012, 10:55 AM ET
By Ohm Youngmisuk | ESPNNewYork.com

WASHINGTON -- Eli Manning arrived at the White House a few hours before his teammates Friday, and he probably could have made his way around without a guide.

For the second time in five years, Manning and the New York Giants visited the White House as President Barack Obama honored the Super Bowl XLVI champions.

[+] EnlargeNew York Giants at the White House
Rafael Suanes/US PresswireNew York Giants players celebrate their Super Bowl title with President Barack Obama at the White House on Friday. • Gallery

"I'm starting to figure it out a little bit," Manning said when asked if he knew his way around the White House now. "I kinda know take a right, take a left. ... It's just special to be here, and any time you get an opportunity to come to the White House, explore around and meet the people who work here."

In perfect weather conditions on the South Lawn, President Obama praised the Giants for their resiliency.

"Last year's Giants were obviously a special one not just because of where they ended up but because of how they got there," he said. "Not many teams have to deal with a late hit on the head coach. I saw that Jets game. Coach (Tom) Coughlin reminds everybody that he did not go down. That is a tough guy, and you can see that toughness reflected on everybody else on this team.

"The Giants took a whole bunch of hits this season but they never went down. They followed a simple motto -- finish."

Coughlin, who recently received the Outstanding Civilian Service Award from the U.S. Army (the third-highest public service honor given to a civilian), thanked the men and women in the military and said that Congress might benefit by learning a thing or two from the Giants.

"Offense, defense and special teams doing their jobs, each group having different objectives and motives but playing in harmony for each other, for the good of everyone," Coughlin said. "Wouldn't it be nice if Congress operated the same way?"

The president applauded in approval.

The Giants soaked in their visit. Several players tweeted pictures while inside the White House. While it was the second time for veterans like Manning and Justin Tuck who were on the Super Bowl XLII team during the 2007 season, first-time visitors like Victor Cruz walked around wide-eyed and giddy.

"It was crazy, man," Cruz said. "Just to be at the White House and meeting the president, it was just one of those experiences that I will never let go.

"I was looking around, I was taking pictures, I was sitting down in chairs, I am doing it all. There was definitely a difference between me and Eli and Tuck."

Manning arrived to the White House a couple of hours before the team to shoot a public service announcement and spent some time with Vice President Joe Biden.

He got a tour of the West Wing and the Oval Office.

"Just to hear all the stories about paintings and desks and chairs," Manning said. "You hear all the president's chairs are a little elevated in all the meeting rooms, little things like that you'd never know unless you were here and someone told you." Manning also got to hear President Obama praise him for his Super Bowl MVP performance and deliver a message to the quarterback's critics.

"I would just advise the sports writers out there the next time Eli says he thinks he is an elite quarterback, you may just want to be quiet," the president said. "Eli wasn't alone of course. Justin Tuck got to the QB, Victor Cruz scored and salsa'd. Mario Manningham gets his feet in bounds for the biggest catch of his life. Nobody was perfect but everybody did their job."

The President even joked about Tuck's favorite Phil Collins song.

"The night before the Super Bowl, they watched a highlight reel set to Justin Tuck's good-luck song, 'In The Air Tonight,'" the president said. "I don't know about a little Phil Collins before a big game. ... I may try that before a big meeting with Congress but apparently it worked."

Tuck, who cracked that he might have to make the president a mix-tape, was reminded of how big of a Chicago sports fan the president is when the team presented him with a Giants No. 44 jersey.

"He's a very adamant Chicago-based fan as he let me know again right there," Tuck said. " I just told him he looks good in blue. He was like, 'You're right, but I'd rather have that Chicago Bears (jersey) on me.'"

Tuck, though, always had a feeling he would return to the White House after his first visit in 2008.

"Honestly, I thought we'd have the opportunity to repeat and do it again," Tuck said. "I'm very spoiled. I like being spoiled." Coughlin hopes the Giants will be back soon.

"I hope this is not a twice-in-a-lifetime experience," the coach said at the celebration with President Obama near his side. "We both have a goal to get back here next year."

Ohm Youngmisuk has covered the Giants, Jets and the NFL since 2006. Prior to that, he covered the Nets, Knicks and the NBA for nearly a decade. He joined ESPNNewYork.com after working at the New York Daily News for almost 12 years and is a graduate of Michigan State University.
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