By Rick Assad
Not one to brag or show up an opponent, Marcus Manahan, a senior running back and outside linebacker on the Burroughs High football team keeps a steady head and a steely look when he’s on the football field.
Off the gridiron, Manahan is quiet but fun-loving and studious with a quick mind.
After a subpar 2021 season in which the Bears went 4-6 and 2-3 in the Pacific League, the team is 4-1 with a league game to be played versus Crescenta Valley on Friday at Moyse Field.
Why the turnaround this season?
“The team really has come together as a group and tried to prove people wrong,” said Manahan, who has accounted for 294 rushing yards on 73 carries for a 4.02 average with two rushing touchdowns through four games. “The foundation we have been building since spring has really led us to being 4-1. Players understand their roles. Grinding all week during practice, preparing for game day. And most importantly, having the “0-0 mentality,” meaning one game at a time and no records considered.”
Five regular season league games remain, and this team has the potential to accomplish something truly special.
Before the campaign, what did Manahan, who has been on the varsity three years and has been named a two-time captain, want to accomplish on a personal level?
“Statistically I have not set any real goals. Stats will happen when they happen. A more important personal goal is to be an impact player that contributes to the team for the win,” he said. “Also, maybe a player that other teams need to watch out for.”
How about team goals? “As far as team goals, of course, there is always the goal to be league champs, especially since it’s been a while for Burroughs to claim that,” Manahan offered. “There is nothing saying we cannot do that this year. We just need to stay healthy and focused. Then there is also the goal of making the [CIF Southern Section] playoffs. We did it last year and the goal this year is to go deeper into the postseason.”
Game day is different for everyone. How about for Manahan, who owns a 4.1 grade-point average and has applied to the United States Air Force Academy and the United States Naval Academy and will major in Behavioral Science?
“Game day is preparation all day long, from waking up in the morning to game time. All while keeping school in mind, from classes to assignments due and tests that day,” he said. “It’s all about preparation and balance.”
Knowing that games can be struggles, Manahan, who has averaged 73.5 yards rushing per game through four, wants to be smart and prepared.
“Physically I am hydrating all day, eating right, and resting as much as I can before game time,” he said. “Mentally I try to relax, enjoy time with friends, and not try to think too much. There’s plenty of time after school before the game to get mentally prepared.”
Manahan’s junior campaign seems to have set the course for this season.
“I definitely think so. Last year was a slightly down year for me due to an injury in the third game. Made it back for the last two games of the season and the one playoff game. (Especially the win over Burbank.) That time off helped me get mentally stronger,” he explained. “Gave me the desire to come back this year and in a sense redeem myself for lost time. You can kind of say this year is my “redemption” campaign.”
Not especially tall at 5-8 but solidly built at 185 pounds, Manahan is a tough and rugged runner.
“Before I get my hands on the ball, I am thinking of the play and how to react to options that present themselves, so yes, trying to outsmart the other team,” he said. “Running back things like be patient, find a whole, follow your blocks, run though the defender, make the cuts, burst of speed. It all happens so fast on the field that thinking has to come even quicker.”
Manahan went on: “And there is always in the back of my mind knocking defenders backwards,” he said. “Just to let them know who they are up against.”
Jesse Craven, the third-year Burroughs coach knows Manahan well.
“It’s hard to put into words what Marcus has meant to this program and overall school community,” he said. “I think he is an example of what it means to make the most of your high school experience,” he said of the ASB and Senior Class Treasurer. “His success in football is just the exclamation point to the person, student and leader he is in multiple ways on our campus.”
Craven added: “He has over a 4.0 GPA, is part of ASB, he’s been our team captain for the past two years. He’s intelligent, well-spoken, hard-working and disciplined,” he said. “He has set the standard of what we hope all our current players and future players can aspire to be like.”
Because football is physical, it definitely tests your will and toughness.
“Oh yes, for sure. It is one sport that tests both your physical and mental limits. Evaluating situations and having to adjust to them instantly is a good challenge,” said Manahan, who will also apply to several UC and Cal State colleges that have his major. “Leaving aggression and emotion on the playing field is also great. More importantly, football brings the comradery that some other sports may not. The word “brotherhood” definitely defines it every week we go to battle for each other.”
Football can be like a two-and-a-half-hour rollercoaster ride according to Manahan, who is a California Scholarship Federation scholar and a National Academy Foundation member.
“The best part is the feeling of being on the field for game day. The “Friday Night Lights” with your team, hearing the national anthem, the anxious waiting to play, and the explosion of energy that comes with the first play of the game. Excitement all around,” he said. “The toughest part is the morning after. Recovering from the soreness of a hard-fought battle as well as the emotional recovery.”
Wherever Manahan, who was named Academic Player of the Year in football, goes or whatever he does, football will have helped reveal him as a person.
“Football has taught me leadership really matters, especially in a big group setting. A good leader really affects the team performance both emotionally and physically,” he said. “Being a captain has taught me that. Being able to positively influence teammates, helping keep the team focused and excited, teaching the younger guys, learning from the coaches, being accountable for your actions, and overall being smart about instant situations. Football has been a great part of my preparation for the next stage in life.”