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September 06, 2006 - Image 18

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The Michigan Daily, 2006-09-06

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18 - The Michigan Daily - Wednesday, September 6, 2006
MANNINGHAM: Ready to up his role for '06 campaign ' ~m
Continued from page 15

And work hard he must. Right next to the
chip on Manningham's shoulder after a 7-5
season will be a target placed squarely on
his back.
Rivals.com listed Manningham as the
nation's top No. 2 receiver in its preseason
rankings, a list that placed him above receiv-
ers such as Southern Cal's Steve Smith and
Notre Dame's Rhema McKnight.
After the team's opener against Vander-
bilt, it appears as if Manningham may be
the go-to guy for the receiving corps.
More responsibility? Manningham
doesn't mind.
Manningham, who was raised in a sin-
gle-parent home with his mother along
with his grandparents, took on the added
task of caring for his brother and sister
while growing up. He has the names of his
brother (Mardel, 13 years old) and his sis-
ter (Jeffer'l, 11) tattooed across his wrists,
along with a chain and a lock, to symbolize
his tight family bonds.
"He's very protective of them and very
nurturing," Simpson said. "Mario will go
out of his way to do little things for them.
... He just listens to them, sits down and
talks to them and shows interest as to what
they're into. He'll make special calls back
from Ann Arbor just to talk to them, which
I think is pretty neat."
Manningham said he tries to just instill
in his younger siblings the same values that
his mother and grandparents taught him.
"My mom, my grandfather and my
grandmother are the most important people
in my life," Manningham said. "They've
always been there for me; they taught me
the rights and wrongs. Even though there's
an age gap between me and my brother and
sister, I still think I can help. I was their
age once, and I've been there before. I can
help them out when they need me. I show
them what's right and what's wrong."
Responsibility isn't new to him, and nei-
ther are hype or high expectations. Even
midway through his freshman season, he
was already being tapped as the "next big
thing."
"Super Mario" shirts were distributed
throughout the student body, with the like-
ness of a Manningham-like "Super Mario"
Brothers character in the center of a shirt.
Manningham admits that it's flattering, but
he's yet to prove that this is Super Mario's
world just yet.
"I've got one," Manningham said. "But
it isn't really anything but another shirt for
me. I feel like I really haven't done any-
thing yet to deserve it."
That isn't the lone attire-related issue
that Manningham has to face. The tradi-
tion of Michigan's top receiver wearing the
No. 1 jersey is well known in Ann Arbor.
Former All-American Braylon Edwards
was the last Wolverine to wear the number.
And despite having to live up to Edwards's'

legendary status, Manningham admits the
prospect of wearing it is intriguing.
"I've thought about it, but I've got a long
way to go," Manningham said. "Those are
some big shoes to fill."
Being the next Braylon and gaining indi-
vidual accolades aren't the key concerns
for Manningham going into his sophomore
season. His one and only goal for the year
is to get Michigan back on the map as a
national power.
"Sometimes we forget who we are, and
who we're playing for," Manningham said.
"But passion this year - passion is a big
thing for us. Our passion is going to be out
there, you'll see it."
Manningham said the team's goal since
last season's Alamo Bowl defeat has been
to return passion and intensity to its reper-
toire. He uses his free time with teammates
as an opportunity to show just how hungry
he is.
Manningham spent his first summer in
Ann Arbor this offseason, where he roomed
with sophomore cornerback Johnny Sears.
The two competed whenever they could,
doing "anything and everything" to test
each other's wills.
"All we do is compete," Manningham
said. "Video games, washing hands, it
doesn't matter. That's it - that's all we do
is compete."
Sears said their tendency to compete
carries onto the football field as well.
"Last year, we'd watch tape, and we
went against each other a lot," Sears said.
"We just try and make each other better,
and we're so competitive that we're always
going atlit hard. We don't let up on each
other."
Manningham doesn't let his practice
competition end at roommates. He remem-
bers fondly the impact cornerback Leon
Hall had on him as a freshman, and he
hopes to keep learning from the All-Amer-
ica candidate.
"Leon Hall does nothing except get
me better," Manningham said. "Because
of some of the things I did last year, it's
because of Leon Hall - he helped me a lot.
He played three years before I got here, and
he knows how it is, so every time he used
to get up there, I tried to get up there and
battle against him.
"When I first got here, he tried to jam
me up. Now I know the little things; he's
taught me a lot of little things. I had to
learn fast, coming in and playing right
away and everything. The cornerbacks,
especially Leon, taught me how to learn
the little things really fast."
And fast is exactly how Manningham
likes things.
Whether it's quickly making Th impact

"I've thought about
it, but I've got a long
way to go. Those are
some big shoe to fill."
- Sophomore wide receiver
Mario Manningham
on the prospect of wearing the No. 1
jersey, last worn by Braylon Edwards.
as a freshman, blazing by defenders with
his 4.39 speed in the 40-yard dash or rapid-
ly ascending up the wide-receiver rankings,
Manningham has just one gear: full-speed
ahead.
If he has his way, that will be exactly
the gear Michigan will be stuck at on its
way back to the top of the college football
universe.

TOP: Mario ManninghamWakes a touchdown catch in Michigan's season
opener this season against Vanderbilt.
BOTTOM: Manningham looks to Juke out a defender in a road contest
against Wisconsin last season.

over

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