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Safety McManus back for fifth year after undecided summer

Dakota Wesleyan University safety Matt McManus talks to a teammate during the team’s first practice of the season Aug. 13 at DWU’s practice field. (Brooke Cersosimo/Republic)

During the spring football season, Matt McManus watched from the sidelines.

McManus, who had one year of eligibility left at the time, played a different role on the field as an athletic trainer, and decided to move forward with his schooling — apart from Dakota Wesleyan University.

McManus, a Hanson High School graduate, applied for physical therapy school but still kept the option for returning for a fifth year in the back of his mind.

“I told (coach Ross Cimpl) that if I didn’t get in, I’d be returning,” McManus said. “I worked out all summer not knowing if I got in or not.”

Second-year head coach Cimpl knew McManus had some football left in him and wanted him to return for this season.

“To be honest, I was upset that his plan was to graduate and go to grad school because he had a year left (of eligibility),” Cimpl said. “ ... I told him at some point it will be done for sure, but now maybe isn’t that time.

“He wanted to get into grad school but the closer it got to football, you could tell he wanted to be here and we wanted him here.”

After being put on the wait list at two schools, McManus found out he’d be joining the Tigers for one final season.

“I’m very excited about being back,” said McManus, who redshirted during his freshman year, giving him a fifth-year option. “I was excited about going on to PT school, but this was always here for me. Now that I’m back in pads and hitting, it’s really exciting.”

But McManus, who is now getting his master’s degree in education administration and is a graduate assistant for the athletic training program, isn’t just back to be a part of the team. He wants to help the Tigers do something great.

“The team goals are first, and we want to make playoffs and do something that Dakota Wesleyan has never done before,” he said. “I think that always has to be the expectation and from there just keep on building.”

McManus and the Tigers open their season against the University of Wisconsin-Stout at 1 p.m. Sept. 7 in Menominee, Wis.

Cimpl has worked with McManus since his first year of playing eligibility and said he’s seen a big improvement from the safety.

“He always understood the schemes and was always that second guy in line at first,” Cimpl said. “Last year was his breakout year and he was the guy. He took his lumps a little bit when seeing things in a game atmosphere but learned to put himself in a good position.”

Last season as a redshirt junior, McManus started in nine games and played in all 10 for the Tigers. He finished fourth on the team with 56 total tackles — 25 solo tackles and 31 assisted tackles. He also had 1.5 tackles for a loss, five pass breakups and one fumble recovery.

“Other than being a great football player, there’s a lot of intangible things he brings to the table with setting an example, knowing how we do things, going through the whole process and being around for a while,” Cimpl said. “It’s those things that almost more important than him being on the field for us.”

Sophomore Tanner Munk, a cornerback, agreed with Cimpl, saying McManus has been a leader to the younger players on the defense.

“He kept it calm and relaxed,” said Munk, a Dell Rapids native. “He showed me that football still can be fun but competitive at the same time. To have him back is even better because he has even more experience now. If you have questions on the field, he’s the one to go to.

“He’s got a common knowledge of everything through the defense and also supplies that mental support and keeps us focused.”

Brooke Cersosimo
Brooke Cersosimo is The Daily Republic's sports editor.
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