Manley, Keating hope Pro Days get them noticed by NFL teams

Mesa State football tight end Maurice Manley stretches for the ball as he works on his skills at Bergman Field in preparation of Pro Day.

Maurice Manley took the plunge and hired an agent.

Yes, a football agent.

“It’s kind of crazy,” the Grand Junction native said. “I didn’t know if I needed one. I called one that (former Mesa State football player) Arthur (Berlanga) used to get some info. We kept talking and he wanted to be my agent.”

Manley, who played tight end for Mesa State College, will participate Tuesday in a “Pro Day” at the University of Northern Colorado in hopes of drawing enough interest from an NFL team to at least sign a free-agent contract.

Several Division I institutions host events for NFL scouts to evaluate college athletes in drills like the 40-yard dash. Mesa State coaches were able to get Manley in the Pro Day at UNC.

“I’m not nervous now, but it’s starting to build,” Manley said. “I haven’t heard a lot of information about it. I know I made it in, and all the drills they’re going to be testing on, like the bench, 40 and pro-agility (shuffle).”

Mesa State All-American kicker Jared Keating is trying to get an opportunity to kick March 17 at Colorado State University’s Pro Day, and participated in a kicking camp last week in Las Vegas.

“I went to a kicking camp with Paul Assod,” Keating said. “I met him at junior college. He’s had a lot of good kickers go through his camp. He pushed (Sebastian) Janikowski into the league. If nothing happens, I could go work with him on getting more consistent. He can definitely help me out on kickoffs.”

Keating and Manley have drawn interest from NFL scouts since their junior years when

Keating booted a 52-yard field goal and Manley moved from defensive end to tight end.

Scouts visited the two in practices last fall.

Keating was interviewed by scouts from the Cleveland Browns, Tennessee Titans and Carolina Panthers.

The Panthers, Vikings, Redskins, Chargers, Titans, Eagles, 49ers and Jets have spoken with Mesa State coach Joe Ramunno about Manley.

“The number one thing is his body style,” Ramunno said. “He has good hands. He is a big guy and can run well. The system we ran helped. He didn’t have great numbers, but he was very productive.

“If he can get into a (training) camp, that’s where it is. The reality of it is he’ll probably be a free agent.”

Manley’s been preparing for Tuesday’s event by lifting weights with his former Mesa State teammates and working out with former Mesa State and NFL tight end Ben Steele.

“Ben has helped me a lot with catching, the 40 and with techniques I can use to get faster,” Manley said. “He went through the whole stretching program when you warm up, to my actual (time) in the 40. I haven’t timed myself yet, but I’m hoping to run a 4.7.”

Steele isn’t the only one making sure Manley is staying in shape.

“My friends joke around,” Manley said. “If they see me slacking, they’ll say, ‘That’s not NFL material.’ They keep reminding me to push myself.”

Steele signed a free-agent contract with the San Francisco 49ers in 2001 and bounced around the league for five years before breaking a leg and retiring.

He is working in real estate now, but hopes to coach.

“He’s a great kid with a great work ethic,” Steele said of Manley. “I’ve been working with Mo on the whole process. It’s a mental thing. The scouts put you at your worst advantage. I’m helping him with his starts on his 40. If you don’t have an electric timer, they start when you lift your hand off the ground. A lot of guys don’t practice the skill of it.”

After the pro day, Manley will continue training and lifting weights. If NFL teams remain interested, they’ll come to Grand Junction and test him some more.

Otherwise, he and Keating will sit and wait.

“It is sort of nerve-wracking,” Keating said. “I’ve sat here before and thought about if this doesn’t work, what am I going to do? I’ve got to have the mind frame it’s going to work.
You’ve got to make it go the way you want it to.

“There are a bunch of kickers in the league that didn’t make it right out of college. If I go to camp and kick with a starting kicker the other team will be charting me, too.

“At my position, you work out, work out, work out and get nibbles, then weeks go by, a guy goes down and you get a call. You’ve got to follow your dreams and see where they lead you.”


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