Ryan McManus ’15 makes triumphant return to Big Green

by Brett Drucker | 9/24/14 4:18pm

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McManus returned to the field on Saturday with his best performance to date.
by Natalie Cantave / The Dartmouth

Reaching over his right shoulder, arms fully outstretched, Dartmouth’s top receiver hauled in a perfect pass from Dalyn Williams ’16 last Saturday in the Big Green’s season opener against Central Connecticut State University. Up in the air and with a defender clinging to his back, the man in the green number two jersey managed to touch his foot down just inside the sideline for what would be the game-winning touchdown. After months of frustration and waiting, Ryan McManus ’15 was back.

The senior from Mendota Heights, Minnesota, has seen a career filled with ups and downs. After seeing limited action in his first season in Hanover, McManus broke out in his sophomore campaign, finishing the season with 42 catches for 664 yards, good for second on the team and eighth in the Ivy League, which earned him an All-Ivy honorable mention.

When wide receivers coach Cortez Hankton joined the team before the 2012 season, he recalled having a group of established players ahead of McManus and being surprised by the sophomore’s consistent effort and improvement, which earned him a starting role in the first game of his sophomore season.

“He earned the right to be the starter,” Hankton said of McManus. “He impressed me. I had some guys when I came in who were basically considered the starters, and he went in and claimed a spot.”

The season was punctuated by a 68-yard touchdown reception against Harvard University when McManus caught the ball just over midfield and proceeded to breakfive tackles on his way to the endzone. The play, which sent the Memorial Crowd field into a frenzy, made SportsCenter’s “Top 10 Plays” list that week.

Just when things appeared to be looking up for the Big Green star, he saw his 2013 season derailed by injury after suffering a significant concussion in the second game against the College of the Holy Cross. He missed the remainder of the season.

McManus is hopeful about this fall. The player Hankton nicknamed “sweet” for his positive demeanor and consistent leadership hauled in six catches in Saturday’s game, for a career-high 117 yards.

It feels good to be back, McManus said.

“It’s very tough to watch from the sidelines, you want to be out there helping and contributing to your team,” he said.

One of McManus’s strengths is his ability to gain yards after the catch — the Harvard play being a perfect illustration. Hankton compares him to Baltimore Ravens veteran wide receiver Steve Smith.

“He doesn’t really look that fast, but he’s sneaky strong,” Hankton said. “You see him catch a ball, be slippery and he’s out of there.”

With his consistent hands and evasive running, he is also the team’s primary punt returner.

McManus said he was born to play football.

His parents met at Drake University where his father played football and his mother was a cheerleader — a “cliché,” McManus joked.

He is the second of three brothers to suit up for the Big Green, following in the footsteps of his older brother Tim McManus ’11 and leading the way for his younger brother Danny McManus ’17, who joined the team last year.

“Growing up there was always a football in one of our hands,” he said.

McManus got to play with his older brother during the 2011 season, which he called a “pretty special” experience.

After visiting Harvard and the University of Pennsylvania, Dartmouth marked the last stop on his college tour.

“It just felt like home,” he said. “All the guys knew my name already. It was pretty interesting to be somewhere and have people know who you are and you had no idea who they were. It was pretty special to meet all of my brother’s friends and teammates and how welcoming they were.”

Next season, McManus will receive an extra year of eligibility, like his older brother, for missing such significant time last season. When thinking about the future, he said he would love for it to include football, but, either way, he looks forward to the extra year to decide where he is headed.

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