Eric Manning Feature

Oct. 28, 2002

Corvallis, Ore. - By Kip CarlsonOSU Sports Information

Eric Manning stands 6-foot-1, 297 pounds. He spends a good deal of time colliding with young men of similar stature, trying to push them backward and, ideally, knock them down.

He'd also like to be your babysitter.

To be clear, Manning isn't interested in that position until a few years down the road - hopefully, after a professional football career. But one of the directions he might like to see his life go is toward taking care of youngsters.

That's an indication of the on/off switch between the Oregon State senior defensive tackle's on-field aggression - which earned him first-team All-Pacific-10 honors last season - and his off-field demeanor - soft-spoken and smiling, a man who loves getting home to play with his son.

'I love being around my son - he's a good son,' Manning said of 4-year-old Eric Jr. 'He loves being around the football team; I bring him around a lot. He loves playing with the guys, playing catch and everything.'

Manning has spent his college days juggling a family life with Eric Jr. and girlfriend Crystina Heard while studying for his soon-to-be-earned degree in Liberal Studies, and building an outstanding football career.

'It's hard, but I've got to balance everything to be a successful person in life,' said Manning, who feels that the duties of a family man have had him focused more on ultimate goals than other college students might be.

'It made me know that I had something, that I couldn't go out and party all the time - I had responsibilities I had to take care of here, and that made me a better man just like my father,' Manning said, acknowledging Otis Manning. 'I appreciate that. I'm happy - I wouldn't change it for the world.'

That happiness is a big reason Manning is considering following his mother, Dorothy Manning, into a career caring for young children.

'I want to do something like that,' Manning said. 'I've got a son, and I want to take care of kids, open up a daycare, read to them, do stuff like that - just work with kids.'

Manning, who's also considering an emergency services career - maybe firefighting - is already spending a lot of time in service to others.

Defensive tackle, when played well, means clogging up the middle and drawing as much of the opponents' manpower as possible to stop your surge. Manning and teammate Dwan Edwards are one of the best inside tandems in the country, which means they attract enough attention to free the rest of the Beavers up to make plays.

You'll get a few sacks and fumble recoveries (Manning has 6 1/2 and 2 in his career, respectively), but many times a great play by a defensive tackle results in the tackle being credited to someone else.

'It's just a man's game down there,' Manning said. 'We clog up the blocks and get double-teamed and let the linebackers make the plays. It's just team ball. We're a family-oriented football team, and that's how we need to play.

That's not to say it's not a position that doesn't provide its share of fun, and Manning has his favorite aspect.

'Trying to hit the quarterback,' he grinned. 'I like being physical in there; at defensive tackle, you're always hitting somebody. Every play, whether it's a pass or a run, you're always hitting somebody and that's what I love - hitting somebody.'

Size and strength aren't the only qualities that have made Manning exceptional. He's also learned to take a look at an opposing lineman and get a pretty good idea what's coming after the ball is snapped.

'I've been playing for a long time, and I just know how guys get in their stance,' Manning said. 'I just know how to catch certain keys and watch a guy to tell what he's doing throughout a game. When he's light on his fingers, I know he's pulling some way ... playing the D-line for a long time, you learn those keys and to be experienced like that.'

As Manning has worked himself into the ranks of the nation's best defensive tackles, he's attracted more and more double-teams. He's seen enough of them to know what he wants to do when he's taking on two blockers - get rid of the first one as quickly as possible to keep it a one-on-one battle with the second blocker.

'Just play physical with the first guy who encounters me,' Manning said. 'I've got to get into him and get my hands extended out, and get leverage and push him back, and then the other guy won't be as close to me. Just keep moving.'

Playing in a defense as good as Oregon State's makes an offense account for not only Manning and Edwards but linebackers Richard Seigler, Nick Barnett and Erik Tuma, and then the defensive ends and a deep and talented secondary. And that makes life brighter in that pile in the center of the field.

'I love playing with Dwan Edwards. I wouldn't want to play with anybody else but (NFL great) Warren Sapp; he's my idol,' Manning said. 'But I love playing with Dwan, and Rich and Nick and all of them. Those are some great guys, and I know opponents are looking at all of us and they don't know who to block. As long as somebody's making a play, I'm happy. As long as we're doing our job on defense, doing what we need to do, I'm happy every day going home.'

As his Oregon State career goes into its final half-season, Manning is looking forward to three more games at Reser Stadium.

'I just want to tell all the fans I appreciate them supporting me and supporting the Beavers,' Manning said. 'I love playing here; I wouldn't take it back for the world. We've got great fans here, we've got great support from the community, and I love that. I just want to wish them the best luck next year and hope we can get back to where we were two years ago.'

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