The New York Giants quarterback tackles the off-field challenges of raising his daughter, Ava.
Eli Manning with daughter
Credit: Stuart Ramson/Insider Images for Pampers

Instead of tackling his opponent, Eli Manning is busy tackling diaper duty -- and hoping not to fumble on the job. In June, quarterback of the two-time Super Bowl-winning New York Giants stopped by Citifield in Flushing, New York, with his 15-month-old daughter, Ava. To jump-start Pampers' "Most Valuable Dads Celebration," Manning threw the opening pitch of a Mets game. chatted with the two-time MVP to talk about being Ava's father.

What's more nerve-racking, heading into the Super Bowl or heading into the delivery room?

Both are very exciting. In terms of the Super Bowl, I know what to expect. With parenting, this has been a brand-new experience. It's life-changing. Every day you learn something new. I was very nervous, but ultimately I'm very happy and I'm overwhelmed by all the love I have for my little girl.

How has Ava made you a better person?

I'm the type of person who loves to stay busy, even in my off-season. Now I only want to be home with Ava. I love taking her for a walk in the stroller, having lunch somewhere, or staying indoors and playing around.

Was her first word football?

[Laughs] No, but one of her first words was ball. It just happened that way and, no, I didn't force it upon her. She pointed at it and said the word. Yes, we have a lot of footballs, baseballs, and basketballs around the house and, yes, we tend to pick them up and toss them around.

Do you entice your daughter to watch football and not cartoons?

She watches a little bit. She's even been to some Giants games and the Super Bowl. She is getting into cartoons now. She gets fixated on some and will actually sit for a good five minutes staring at the TV. I want her to find things that she really enjoys and that make her happy.

When Ava gets a little bit older and wants to play dress-up, is she allowed to wear your Super Bowl ring as one of her accessories? Do you dress her in a #10 jersey with her daddy's name on the back?

[Laughs] She can do whatever she wants, including wearing my ring. Every once in a while [she does wear a jersey with my number]. My wife likes to her to wear dresses and bows in her hair. I even play dress-up with her.

Your older brother, Peyton, has a set of twins the same age as Ava. Do you guys share parenting tips or offer each other advice?

Peyton and I are very close and we have always been close. When we talk every week, we always talk about our kids. We also talk about the activities the kids are doing or what new walker or toy we got them. We exchange advice and talk about what cartoons, food, snacks, or treats that the kids like.

You've spoken publicly about wanting more children. Are you secretly hoping for a son because sports are your life?

I think a lot of guys want a son because of all of the things they do while growing up. A lot of guys want to share those experiences with their own sons. I'm not hoping for a son and I won't be disappointed with other girls because Ava is just so much fun. Having a girl is a blast. I don't care what happens down the road, as long as the children are healthy.

Do you ever turn to your dad, Archie, for daddy advice?

Definitely. He is so helpful and is great with Ava. He always has the right answers to the many questions I throw at him.

What does being a father mean to you?

Spending quality time with Ava every day is so rewarding. Every day when I come home, I drop everything to look for her. I can't wait to see what she's doing, and I always hope she allows me to join her. Whether it's running around outside, bathtime, or reading a book, any time I can spend with her or any time I can get her to smile or laugh is a wonderful experience.

Copyright © 2012 Meredith Corporation.