September 6, 2006
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When sophomore wide receiver
Mario Manningham outstretches
his arms, different people see dif-
Those close to him may see the
tattoos around his wrist, symbolic
of his strong family ties.
Penn State fans may see the hands
that made the catch that prevented
their Nittany Lions from having an
undefeated 2005 season.
Yet Michigan fans may just see
two empty hands - a grim remind-
er of the amount of times they saw
the Maize and Blue come up empty-
handed last season.
But no matter what the inter-
pretation is of the hands, the fact
remains that they belong to a wide-
out who is coming off of one of the
best freshman seasons in school
history. And nobody can argue that
if the program wants to return to
the upper echelon any time soon,
those hands will have to play a big
part in it.
It was a Saturday night in early
September, and Warren G. Harding
High School's Mollenkopf Stadium
was filled to the brim. Even though
it was an early-season game, the
sell-out crowd provided proof of
the magnitude of the contest.
Not only were two of Ohio's pre-
mier football teams colliding, but
the state's two most highly touted
recruits were also set to battle.
Mario Manningham, Harding's
four-star wide receiver, was pitted
against Jamario O'Neal, Glenville's
The match-up wasn't just a typi-
cal duel between two great player,
it was hyped as the first battle
between two stars who were set to
have many more - Manningham
had already committed to Michi-
gan, and O'Neal was headed to
rival Ohio State.
But what was supposed to be
an epic head-to-head battle soon
turned into the Mario Manningham
show, foreshadowing the future
impact the 6-foot wide receiver
would have at Michigan.
Manningham snagged seven
catches, three of which went for
touchdowns, for a total of 251
yards. O'Neal even moved from
cornerback to safety following
Manningham's second touchdown,
but Manningham had planned on
doing more than just winning his
match-up against the rival corner.
Warren G. Harding still trailed
by two points late in the game,
despite Manningham's receiving
clinic. Glenville had the ball at
midfield, and with less than two
minutes remaining on the clock,
it appeared as if Manningham's
offensive explosion would be all for
But his night wasn't over yet.
ed a screen pass, but Manningham,
who was also playing cornerback,
read the play perfectly and stepped
into the passing lane. An intercep-
tion and 50 return yards later, Man-
ningham's night was complete, as
was Harding's comeback victory.
"He's had a lot of great perfor-
mances, but that one was definitely through the recruiting process
special," Warren G. Harding coach before - his uncle, Gerald Simp-
Thom McDaniels said. "He's the son Jr. had previously gotten a
best receiver I've ever coached in full-ride scholarship to play
33 years of coaching, and I've seen football at Pittsburgh.
a lot of great wide receivers." This made the daunt-
ing task a little bit
easier for the wide
Fast forward 13 months to another "We were kind of
Saturday night. The scene is similar, fortunate because
but on a much larger stage. There's (Mario's uncle),
still a sold-out crowd, there's still a Gerald Simpson Jr.,
tightly contested game and there's had already been
still Mario Manningham putting an through the process,"
emphatic end to that game with his Manningham's grand-
heroics. father, Gerald Simpson
Michigan fans remember it as Sr., said. "This was even
one of the few bright spots in a dis- more intense than what my
appointing season. son went through. A major-°
Manningham remembers it as ity of Division I schools
"just another catch." pushed really hard to get
However it's remembered, it sent Mario and were knocking at
Wolverine nation into a frenzy and his door."
prevented Michigan from having its Manningham's close ties to
first losing record at any point in a Warren alumni were another
season since 1998. determining factor in his
On the game's final play, Man- college choice. Luckily
ningham, a true freshman, slanted for members of Wolver-
across the field, where quarterback ine nation, Warren G. 4
Chad Henne connected with him Harding High has a 9
on a 10-yard touchdown pass. The history of sending
catch propelled Michigan to a 27- graduates to Michi-
25 victory over then-undefeated gan.
Penn State. "We have a great
"There isn't anything about big bond at Warren:
games that makes me play differ- it's like a brother-
ently," Manningham said. "It's just hood," senior line-
that some games I get more plays backer and Warren
called for me than others. Last year alum Prescott Bur-
it seemed like more of the big plays gess said. "When I
got called for me in big games." went (to Michigan), I
His former coach agreed, saying wanted to do what I could to
that Manningham doesn't care what get other good players from Warren
team he's up against - he wants to to do the same." catches for 443 yards and six touch-
do whatever he can to beat whatever Once Manningham arrived in downs, just one touchdown behind
team is put in front of him. Ann Arbor, his goal was to play Anthony Carter's freshman record
"He doesn't necessarily have a as a freshman. Not only did he not of seven.
knack for the big game, but he defi- redshirt, Manningham had already e sE
nitely has a knack for the big play," made his mark by the second D
McDaniels said. "I don't think game. Sophomore
Mario cares who the opponent is, "I sat in the stands and had tears Manningham knows this year, wide
he has the ability to break the big in my eyes the first time he walked his sophomore season, will be receiver Mario
play no matter who he plays. At any on the field last year, and having his much more difficult. Long gone are Manningham
point and time of the game, he can first catch of his college career be the days of playing in anonymity. had six
bust loose." a touchdown catch against Notre "I'm ready," Manningham said touchdown
Dame, what more can you ask for?" prior to the season at Michigan catches to go aong
Simpson said of his grandson's 25- Media Day. "I know they're going and 443 yards
yard touchdown catch against the to know about me this year. Every receiving during his
Whether or not Manningham Fighting Irish. time I think about it, it just makes freshman season
would be busting loose at the next In all, Manningham finished me want to work harder."
level was never really the question his freshman campaign with 27 See MANNINGHAM, page 18
- his natural ability is undeniable.
But it was far from a forgone con-
clusion that Manningham's receiv-
ing prowess would be on display at
Manningham grew up in Warren,
Ohio. Once he began turning heads
during his sophomore year in high
school, almost all of the big schools
came calling, including Ohio State.
But by his junior year, Manning-
ham had decided against moving
three hours southwest to Columbus,
and instead chose to enter enemy
territory and sign a letter of intent
to play for Michigan.hi y+P
"To come from Ohio, you know~'aw
early on that nobody likes Michi- t, ,, " "" .. ,, y >.,
gan, and nobody from Michigan
likes Ohio,"' Manningham said.
"There isn't any middle ground, so
you either have to join them or play
against them." FILE PHOTO
Manningham's family had been Mario Manningham celebrates after catching Chad Henne's pass with no time remaining in Michigan's 27-25 victory agaisnt Penn State last season.
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