Lewis: Newman High still loves Eli Manning and Odell Beckham Jr., but the Saints remain tops _lowres

New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning and Odell Beckham, both graduates of Newman, chat during a preaseason game in August in East Rutherford, N.J.

Friday was homecoming at Newman, which meant everyone wore green.

Bad timing.

Because otherwise it would have been an even-more colorful display of split loyalties between the Saints and the New York Giants, the locals’ foe Sunday.

Obviously, there would be support for the hometown team — especially because Drew Brees’ school age kids attend the Uptown school and defensive coordinator Rob Ryan’s son, Matthew, is a senior offensive tackle for the Greenies.

But Newman’s also the alma mater of Giants quarterback Eli Manning and wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr.

So there’s lots of support for those two, too, especially Beckham since this year’s seniors were in the eighth grade in 2010, Beckham’s final year there before he went on to stardom at LSU and then a Pro Bowl rookie season with the Giants in 2014.

As for Eli? Well, obviously he and older brother Peyton are legends around here. The No. 18 worn by the Mannings, including oldest Manning scion Cooper, at Newman has been retired and is displayed prominently at Lupin Field. Cooper’s children are now at Newman.

But Peyton had graduated before any of the current Newman students was born, and even the seniors were just toddlers when Eli graduated in 1999.

To them, at age 34, Eli is more legend than contemporary.

“I saw Odell throw the ball 70 yards left-handed when he was a sophomore,” senior linebacker Alex Abramson said. “He was an incredible athlete then like he is now.”

But does that mean Abramson’s pulling for the Giants on Sunday?

“It’s hard for me to root against the Saints,” Abramson said. “I think it would be good if Eli threw four touchdowns to Odell, but the Saints won 50-49.

“That way, the Newman guys would have still done well, but the Saints would have won.”

Others are similarly conflicted.

“We love Odell and Eli,” senior Taylor Scott said. “But we love the Saints, too.

“I’m going to be rooting for both of them.”

Even one person whose name should indicate where her loyalties lie is sticking with the Black and Gold.

“I know a lot of people here like the Giants because of Odell and Eli,” said senior Peyton LeCorgne, whose given name comes from her family, not the famous Manning quarterback. “We’re proud they graduated from Newman, and it’s always fun to watch them and hear the announcers mention they’re from Newman.

“But I’ve still got to go with the Saints.”

Perhaps the most torn of all is Greenies football coach Nelson Stewart.

He was a teammate of Peyton’s and later became Beckham’s coach.

On Sunday, Stewart will be sitting with Beckham’s parents wearing a Giants jersey. But he’s also thinking about wearing a Saints cap just in case he runs into anyone he knows.

“When the Saints won the Super Bowl, it was hard for me to watch, because I wanted Peyton to win, too,” Stewart said. “And I sure can’t root against Odell and Eli.

“This will be my first time to see Odell in person with the Giants, and I know how much it means to him to come home for this game. I’m probably going to get a little misty-eyed when he comes on the field.”

The students feel that sense of pride, too.

“To have players like Odell, Peyton and Eli come from this school is really special,” senior linebacker Jack Miller said. “We’re not some big school with 5,000 students. We’ve only got 350 in high school, and half of them are girls.”

High school teammates who wind up on the same team in the NFL is something that doesn’t happen very often.

O. Perry Walker graduates Keenan Lewis and Michael Wallace were remarkably both taken by the Pittsburgh Steelers in the third round of the 2009 draft and spent four seasons together there before Lewis signed with the Saints and Wallace with the Dolphins in 2013.

And last year, the Saints had the former Miami Central High quarterback-receiver combination of Travaris Cadet and Stanley Jean-Baptiste on the roster.

For Manning and Beckham, Sunday’s game is their first time to play in New Orleans as teammates.

But if they had any desire to come down a day early to enjoy the homecoming festivities at Newman, Giants coach Tom Coughlin said he would have nixed it.

“It’s still special coming home,” Manning said. “There will always be a connection.

“I’m sure most people there will be rooting for the Saints, though. That’s what you should do, so that’s OK.”

So there you have it, Greenies.

Either way, you can’t go wrong.

Good thing Eli and Odell don’t play for the Falcons, though.