It speaks to the burden of legacy, how what happens to us is what first happened to our parents. There is an obvious hook with Manley the second trying signing with a team in the league where Manley the first tried to revive his football career during his long slide down from NFL glory in Washington to stints in prison and medical problems. He plays the same position, too, defensive end. (Mister Irrelevant joked he should be signed by the Washington NFL team.) You'll remember that it was kind of a running gag in the CFL, since the elder Dexter Manley went wherever Bernie and Lonie Glieberman owned a team, first Ottawa, then Shreveport, Louisiana.
ESPN's Tom Friend did a writeup a few years ago on the younger Manley when he was playing in junior college. This was before he passed through two college teams, Oregon and a small school, West Texas A&M. All throughout is kind of a theme of someone resisting his athletic destiny, plus it had an Ottawa reference!
"In 1992, Big Dexter signed with the CFL's Ottawa Rough Riders, and he invited Little Dexter to the press conference. The boy was in his bow tie, as usual, and afterward, he and Big Dexter raced each other in the empty stadium. That really was their last time running together on a football field."As Friend related, Dexter Manley II played barely any football as a youth, instead focusing on hoops as wide-bodied, undersized power forward. He was playing junior college basketball in Southern California when some coaches basically said that with his genes, he was in the wrong sport:
"A couple of them had witnessed his (Charles) Barkley act on the court, and when they realized who he was, they asked him why he was playing a soft sport like basketball. 'Football's in your blood,' they said. They told him to come out for spring practice, that D1 scouts would see his speed and drool. A scholarship? His mom would love that. She worked at a Chico's in Atlanta, struggling to pay his juco tuition, and his dad hadn't made a child support payment since 1999.That part about tearing up when hearing a Luther Vandross song was jarring. Were this the movies, Manley would have made his peace with what Friend described as "carrying his father's demons." He seems to have the physical specs to play defensive end (6-foot-2, 280 lbs., timed at 4.6 seconds in the 40), but so do a lot of other guys coming out of a couple dozen other colleges. West Texas A&M, where he spent two injury-plagued seasons, isn't exactly a football factory. You know how some schools are known as Linebacker U or Quarterback U? West Texas A&M's football team could be Pro Wrestler U.
"But more than that, football felt like home. He'd spent his life trying not to be Big Dexter, but he says the sound of cleats on concrete at spring practice made the hair on his neck stand on end. He'd hear one of his dad's favorite Luther Vandross songs and get emotional. 'I kind of forgave him,' he says.
"And get a load of what happened next: the coaches let Little Dexter Manley line up at defensive end. 'That's where I wanted to play," he says. 'If I was going to do it, I was going to do it all the way. I did it for my dad.' "
This is being written without knowing much about Dexter Manley II and how he can adapt to the CFL. Three-down football is not for everyone, especially with the adjustment defensive players have to make to lining up a yard off the ball. There is also the adjustment from playing at a U.S. school, where football is king, to playing in Canada, where it's a niche sport.
It's not as if the signing will set off a media circus, since Manley is just another rookie trying to make the team. The Ticats will probably try to shield him from the spotlight until he's assured a spot on the team. However, he has the pedigree and defensive ends who have played in Canada are somewhat in demand in the NFL, between former B.C. Lions sackmeister Cameron Wake signing a big deal with the Miami Dolphins and San Diego drafting Western's Vaughn Martin. Friend said of Manley's attempts to play football, "He's a bright kid. It's not too late."
The question is whether that still stands.
(It looks like he can get after the passer, but that clip is from a game three seasons ago.)