Senior Signing Spotlight: Wyatt Manning
Florence athlete signs with Simpson
This is No. 15 in a month-long series of profiles of Arizona high school seniors that signed with four-year colleges. Here's the full list (currently totaling 272) of players from within the state moving on to the next level.
Wyatt Manning entered his senior year at Florence with a few offers already in hand. The 6-3, 200-pound defensive end was coming off a 49-tackle junior year for the Gophers. It was an offseason that was longer than any other as the season was starting six weeks late due to the pandemic.
In the season opener at Coolidge last October, Manning made the tackle on the Bears' first play from scrimmage. What happened next was a reminder of how unforgiving and cruel the game of football can be.
On the second play of the game, Manning tore his ACL and meniscus.
Out for the season, Manning had surgery in November.
Thanks to that junior film, he was able to pick up a total of nine offers from Division III and NAIA schools. In the month of January, Manning hit the road for trips to schools in Iowa, Illinois, and right here in the Valley. On the first week of February, he committed to Simpson College and signed a few days later.
"As soon as I stepped on campus, I fell in love with it," Manning said in an e-mail interview. "From the facilities, to the scenery, to the people, there was nothing I didn't like about it. The coaches were all great and it was a place that I could see myself playing for."
When touring the schools, Manning evaluated the academic side as well as the football program. His plan to is study Biology at Simpson.
"During my visit, I spoke to a biology professor and I enjoyed that it felt like he was talking to me as a person, not just a student," Manning said. "I was left with the distinct impression that people at Simpson value personal relationships."
Manning loves the physical part of football and particularly how he's able to develop his own style of play as a defensive end.
"It's a very aggressive position and there's always hitting and contact every play," Manning said. "I love how there are so many different ways to go about playing D-Line, and D-End specifically."
He's a multi-sport athlete that has competed in soccer and track. Perhaps unorthodox for a lineman, Manning ran not only the 400, but also the 800 and a leg of the 4 x 800 relay.
While there won't be a track season for him this spring, Manning's knee is doing well. He's been able to rehab it and is starting to work back into running. He is planning to return to football activities in July.
Simpson College, located in Iowa, had a very successful recruiting season in Arizona. The Storm ended up getting 10 from the state, including Manning's teammate Kolton Stone, an offensive lineman at Florence. Simpson, a member of the American Rivers Conference (Div. III), didn't get a fall season, but is planning on playing three games in March and April. It will kick off on March 26 at Buena Vista (Iowa). In its last full season in 2019, the Storm finished 5-5.
Manning showed that if you go after them, there are opportunities away from the traditional Division I colleges.
"Don't let anyone tell you that you're too small, or too short, or that you're not fast enough," Manning said. "If you have a dream, pursue it, and don't let anyone doubt you."