We’ve all seen the commercials, you know, “Buy Product X and you’ll lose 40 pounds in four days.”
Well, based on the roster that appeared in the state football program sold Friday at Cicero-North Syracuse, it appears Tioga’s Jesse Manuel has found one of those dieting miracles.
And it works!
Five down on the Tigers’ roster, it shows: 7 Jesse Manuel RB, FS Sr. 5-8. All is well to this point, but then the final number lists 186. That was supposed to be Manuel’s weight.
“I’m about 150,” he said.
Truth is, Manuel didn’t require a get-slim-quick scheme. He’s played at around 150 pounds all season. He’s been close to that weight during his four varsity seasons as a starting running back.
In a game where 250-pounders and larger are present, 200-pounders are common and on a weekly basis, he’s among the smallest players on the field, the young man must have endured more injuries than Mike Tyson’s sparing partners.
So, Jesse, how many games have you missed?
That statistic might be the most amazing surrounding Manuel, and there are lots of them. When he takes to the Carrier Dome turf at noon Friday against Ticonderoga in the Class D state final, it’ll mark his 49th game in a Tigers varsity football uniform. Kid’s as present as ice in Antarctica.
But before continuing with his Ripken-like durability, let’s look at some of his other numbers:
All-time rushing yards: 8,376 (second in state behind Onondaga graduate Mike Hart, who finished with 11,045 from 2001-03).
All-time touchdowns: 122 (third in state behind Hart’s 204 and North Babylon grad Jason Gwaltney’s 135).
Rushing yards season: 2,658 in 2015 (second in Section 4, 71 yards behind the 2,729 gained by Binghamton’s Jamar Smith in 2008; 13th in state).
Touchdowns season: 42 in 2015 (second in Section 4, one behind Binghamton’s Maurice Bradford in 1998; 13th in state).
“We’ll take credit for some of it, but he’s just so fast and strong, and he loves to hit people,” senior tackle Zach Hutchinson said of Manuel’s totals. “That’s the difference between him and a lot of other backs, he loves to lay the lumber.”
Manuel carried 34 times in Friday’s 38-36 squeeze past Bishop Kearney, gaining 302 yards and scoring all five of Tioga’s touchdowns.
Gets it done in a variety of ways, does Manuel. There’s the zero-to-60 in a blink, the cut-back ability, the patience that he’s developed as a senior to set up blocks, and yes, even with those 150 pounds, the power. Plus, at 5-8, he’s hard to find at times behind Tioga’s big offensive linemen, including 285-pound Hutchinson.
“I’ve seen him get a lot better this year,” Tioga coach Nick Aiello said of Manuel, also a standout wrestler and baseball player. “It’s more the offensive scheme we went with this year. Because of him, we’ve incorporated some wrinkles. We have some more plays that have forced him to run in traffic a little bit more. He does so many things well that I get to see over and over on film.”
As for the kid, to say he’s understated would be … well, an understatement. About the only thing he does faster than hit a hole is rush to the end of a sentence, perhaps knowing the quicker he answers, the quicker an interview will end.
It’s not just with the media, though. Aiello called Manuel a team leader, not in a rah-rah sense, but by getting into the weight room, and by being humble, respectful and hard-working.
Aiello nor Hutchinson said they were surprised by Manuel’s ability to take the pounding he absorbs on a weekly basis.
“He comes from a family of very tough kids,” the coach said. “He carries that same mentality with him. Pound-for-pound, he’s one of the strongest kids I’ve come across. That’s why at 150 pounds, he can do the things he does. He has that attitude that nothing is going to hurt him.”