On Friday nights in the fall, the crew at WGOW Coca Cola Redzone often talk about how high school sports are the last untarnished slice of Americana. Parents volunteer in the concession stand while their kids play on the field or provide the soundtrack through band or cheerleading. You see generations of families fill up the bleachers to support the same school year after year.
One of those loyal families is the Manning’s of Ooltewah. They produced the golden boy of the Ooltewah community, Goose Manning. The twenty-something was a multi-sport athlete for the Owls before playing college football at Carson Newman. After graduation, he returned to his alma mater to teach and coach.
Not only has Manning coached as an assistant in football, but he has also served as the head coach for the wrestling team. In addition to his teaching and coaching duties, he quietly works behind the scenes on many other thankless projects that help improve the school. So, you could imagine the excitement in Ooltewah when news broke on Friday that Manning will take the lead of their proud football program.
Ryne Shumaker, a former Ooltewah football player whose family has deep ties in the community and school, said, “I have never once heard anyone speak ill of him. I think it is awesome to have a guy who grew up bleeding Ooltewah red take the reins. You can tell from social media that it’s gotten the whole Ooltewah community and especially alumni excited about football this fall.”
There is no doubt that he is the man for the job. His ability to motivate and connect with players will provide an immediate jolt of energy. Enthusiasm aside, he has the knowledge and vision to build a program on a solid foundation.
Former Owl turned NFL player Jacques Smith has known Manning since they were teammates. Smith said, “Coach Manning has continually pushed our program to new heights that has molded the boys of Ooltewah community into men.:
It will not be an easy first year for Manning. He is getting a late start, plus the 2021 schedule is ruthless. The Owls kick off the season at East Hamilton, host Red Bank, travel to Walker Valley, before hosting Rhea County and Baylor. All Ooltewah is missing is a night game in Baton Rouge.
Of course, wins and losses always come second to the sort of young men you develop through football. I know Manning will help his players find success on and off the field. Let’s support the program by selling out the Owls Nest on August 27th against Red Bank.
(Pat Benson is the author of 'Kobe Bryant's Sneaker History (1996-2020)' which was named a #1 New Release on Amazon. He has covered the NBA for Forbes. Tweet him @Pat_Benson_Jr.)