Life is good these days for Danieal Manning.
The Corsicana native played safety and returned kicks for Houston from 2011 through 2014. He's now living an hour northwest of his hometown in Burleson, which is south of Fort Worth. Manning does some ranching nearby and remarried a few years ago. In addition to three older children in high school, Manning also has a 2-year old.
We caught up about his time with the Texans, the former teammates he still chats with and even discussed his high school days. I was in the Texas Stadium press box the afternoon he played his final high school game, a quarterfinal thriller with Denton Ryan in December of 2000. 14 years later, I was at NRG Stadium for his last NFL contest, a Week 17 win over the Jaguars. You can listen to our conversation below, or click here.
Manning's arrival in free agency in 2011, along with cornerback Johnathan Joseph, helped the Texans defense turn things around from being one of the NFL's worst in 2010 to the one the league's best a year later. He appeared in 51 games with Houston, starting 40 times. A proven veteran, Manning's skills and leadership were invaluable to the Texans defense. He said his time from 2006 through 2010 under then-Chicago Bears Head Coach Lovie Smith was priceless.
"Lovie took me in and showed me what football is all about," Manning said. "Man, it was fun. All those years, going back and forth to the playoffs. Definitely the Super Bowl. Just learning ball and hearing the stories he had in his life, and how he made it to where he is now. We have similar backgrounds. He's from Big Sandy. I'm from Corsicana. We're both country boys."
As a rookie in 2006, Manning and the Bears won the NFC and advanced to the Super Bowl. Four years later, they were back in the NFC title game. Manning relayed how Smith took a special interest in making him a better defensive back, often engaging in one-on-one meetings with the young Manning.
"I know head coaches don't normally coach a position," Manning said. "But he was coaching me up at nickel. He'd have me reaching out to guys about this position and how to be a professional in the NFL and that was something I needed. He knew it and that was a great time."
Manning his happy his former head coach now has the gig in Houston, and explained some of the key reasons Smith is the man for the job.
"He listens to you," Manning said. "He has a competitive spirit. He's very stern. He wants to win. He wanted to make men everywhere he went."
Manning plans on making it back to NRG Stadium to take in some Texans games next fall.