What I Wish I'd Known
By W. Patrick Manus
When I was twelve years old my parents gave me a book at Christmas time on the NFL. This was a pretty amazing act. My Dad was an Industrial Engineer and my Mom was a school teacher. Both knew nothing about football. As a kid growing up in Northern California in the 60’s I lived in an era when the Oakland Raiders were King and the 49ers were always on the cusp of taking it to the next level, but could never get over the hump and win the Championship. About this same time my Godfather took me to Kezar Stadium in San Francisco for my first NFL game. The San Francisco 49ers vs. The Detroit Lions. The Lions had a pretty colorful team with Alex Karras, who was an All-Pro N.F.L. Lineman and another really good player by the name of Pat Studstill. I’m sure being years of age 12 and his name and mine both being Pat that I was attracted to him in the Program and then looked for him on the field. He played flanker, halfback, wide receiver and even punted for the Lions back in the day. Pat was all over the field and I wanted to be just like him.
After that game I signed up for Pop Warner football. We had two divisions in Pop Warner governed by age and weight. In my neighborhood I was the smallest kid on the block at 12 with a bunch of kids who were two & three years older. At 87 lbs I was too small to play for the Santa Clara Lions (minimum wt. 90 lbs to 135 lbs. max limit). I would have to play within my own age and weight bracket with the lighter division Cubs. Of course I wanted to play with my friends, the older boys. My young brain tried to come up with a plan to make the minimum acceptable weight of 90 lbs. I came up with a brilliant plan to eat as many peanut butter and banana sandwiches as humanly possible that summer. My 12 year old metabolism was eating up calories like a lawnmower chewing through a fresh spring garden!!! I could not put on a single pound, even if my life depended on it. My next choice was to show up at the weigh in wearing three sweaters, a jacket, two pairs of pants, three pairs of socks and oh yeah, actual rocks in my pockets. Can you imagine this skinny little kid trying to weigh in? The Coach, Reggie Gage took pity on my. Reggie had played for the Green Bay Packers back in the 50’s. A really great guy with young kids and he turned his eye as I weighed in at 90 lbs. that fine October day in 1966.
The rest is history. I made the S.C. Lions and played half back, wide receiver and returned punts. When I entered High School I was now competing against kids my own age. That skinny little 87lbs. player made 1st team all-league as starting halfback and cornerback in High School, all 4 years. I was selected as the best athlete in High School, voted by my peers. I was also selected to the 1st team all CCS football team (Central Coast of California) All Stars and Nominated to the East-West Shrine game, The all California team. I made the Florida Tropicana Orange Juice All America team. I had numerous scholarship offers to play College football from 15 various colleges from Alabama to West Point, and even Navy for football and track. My Godfather and father both graduated from Cal. Our starting QB in High school, an unbelievable athlete by the name of Steve Bartkowski went to Cal. Many of our star athletes went to Cal. I had a full ride to Cal if I wanted. But I had something different in mind. I wanted to break the mold and go to Stanford. Today we all know how hard it is to get into Stanford. Even if you are a gifted athlete you need top scores on your SAT’s and a great GPA. Back in 1972 when I graduated from High School it wasn’t any different. Remember, I mentioned my mom and Dad were both educated and my mom was a teacher. It seems to me that I didn’t take school work very serious, I knew how to "wing it". I figured I was “Big Man” on Campus and all these Universities loved me, I didn’t need to study, If they wanted me bad enough then they would take any measures to get me into their University.
As a High School Freshmen I ran for Class President and won. It was basically a popularity contest. I was pretty full of myself. I didn’t really study that first half of my freshmen year. When my report card showed up I had a “D” in English. A, “D” in English!!!! Are you kidding me?? My mom was an English major in College with a straight "A" GPA. My Dad graduated from Cal in three years. Now their bonehead jock of a son gets a “D” in English. It taught me a good lesson early in High School. I got back to my classes, focused and managed to a 3.3 grade point average when I graduated from High School. But that “D” disqualified me from a full athletic scholarship to Stanford. Even with a 3.3 GPA and 1,100 on my SAT’s Stanford told me I would have to go to Menlo Junior College for a year, then they would bring me up to the Farm.
This is what my story is all about. That one “D” in Freshmen English taught me a valuable lesson. Believe me, my children had heard this same story for years. My daughter graduated with two degrees; one in English and one in Sociology, both with honors, Cum Laude. My son graduated from Washington State University just this last year with two majors. One in Criminal Justice the other in Business. I’ve shared this story with my children and with people who are close to me. Today I wonder what would have been different if I graduated with a degree from Stanford. I have a Business Degree from Cal Poly in San Luis Obipso, not too shabby, but we all know Stanford is a different place.
When we are young we think we have all the answers. I wish I would have asked more questions…and actually listened to the adults around me. I played for the LA Rams in 1976 and many of those older kids now in their mid-20's watched me perform in front of 100,000 fans the LA Coliseum. It was a great thrill for me and an even better one for those older kids who beat me up when I was that skinny 87 lbs. halfback.
W. Patrick Manus
Tags Former Players