Danieal Manning retired from the NFL yesterday.
On a personal note, his retirement felt a little different than others. I'm probably the only person who was in the pressbox for his final game in high school, and his final game in the NFL.
In the late autumn of 2000, I had a side job as a freelance writer for a website called HighWired Sports. Fresh out of college, I spent my Friday nights and Saturday afternoons in the Dallas-Fort Worth area covering some of the best high school football matchups of the week.
One November Saturday at Texas Stadium, I covered a Denton Ryan-Corsicana playoff game, and Manning was clearly the best player on the field. He played safety for Corsicana, and if he was shaded to the right side of the field, the opposing team's quarterback threw left. If Manning went to the left side, Denton Ryan only considered the right half of the field. Manning had sprinter speed, and closed on passes and ball-carriers in the blink of an eye.
Denton Ryan pulled off a last-minute win in what would be Manning's final game in high school. He would sign that February to play at Nebraska, but later wound up at Abilene Christian.
His coach at ACU was Gary Gaines. If Gaines' name is familiar, that's because he was the head coach of the 1988 Odessa Permain team chronicled in the book 'Friday Night Lights'.
Gaines was a head coach at Abilene Christian from 2000 to 2004, and he said when Manning came to town, things changed. The safety had to sit out a season because of a transfer, but he was able to practice with the squad that fall. Manning was so much better than his peers, that the ACU offense was often unable to successfully practice their plays, because Manning wreaked havoc as a practice squad standout.
Three years of brilliance at ACU earned him a spot in the NFL, and Chicago took him in the 2nd round of the 2006 Draft.
When Manning came to town in 2011, he joined the Texans as a free agent. He and cornerback Johnathan Joseph signed on the same day, and they instantly helped turn what had been a glaringly weak secondary into a strong spot.
Two playoff runs followed, with Manning playing an integral part.
He was a consummate professional on the field, as well as in the locker room. I'm glad he's staying around the organization as a Texans Ambassador.
There are many highlights from his time here, and by no means is the list below an exhaustive one. But here are five memorable moments from Manning's time with the team.
1. The Hit
The 7-1 Texans squared off against the 7-1 Bears in Chicago on Sunday Night Football in 2012. On the game's opening drive for Chicago, the former Bear Manning reminded the Monsters of the Midway what they'd let leave. The Texans would go on to win the contest in a defensive struggle.
2. Playoff INT
Manning picked off Andy Dalton in the fourth quarter of the franchise's first-ever playoff game, helping to seal a victory. A week later in the Divisional round game at Baltimore, he exploded for a 60-yard kickoff return on the game's first play, setting up a Texans' field goal to start the game.
3. Picking off Cutler
Manning followed up his jarring hit of Ben Olsen with an interception later in the opening quarter of the win over the Bears in 2012.
4. Pick 6 vs. Titans
Manning and the 3-0 Texans walloped the Titans in Week 4 of 2012, winning by 24 points. The veteran safety returned an interception 55 yards for a score, and also notched five tackles in the victory.
5. 94-yd return
In the Divisional playoff at New England in 2012, Manning took the game-opening kickoff 94 yards and set the Texans up with a 1st-and-10 at the Patriots' 12-yard line. Houston couldn't capitalize with a touchdown, and had to settle for a field goal. Later in the half, Manning took kickoffs back for 35 yards and 69 yards.
Safety/return man Danieal Manning retired on Tuesday. Take a look back at his time with the Texans from 2011-2014.