Danny McManus -Quarterback-1998-2005- Florida State
December 1, 1999 - By Anya Wassenberg
A native of Hollywood, Florida, Danny McManus graduated from Florida State College in 1988, then spent a couple of years in the NFL with the Kansas City Chiefs. 2005 is McManus' 15th year with the CFL, having earned Grey Cup rings in 1990 with Winnipeg and in 1994 with the B.C. Lions and 1999 with Hamilton. Perhaps surprisingly, football wasn't his initial goal.
"Baseball was my first sport," he explains. "My brother used to play quarterback in highschool. I went (there) after him. But the guy who coached my brother, he saw me throw the football, and that's how I got started as quarterback." So why did he keep playing? "It was fun. It was fun until the first time I got hit in highschool.."
Playing QB means always having to say you're sorry, but the public role is something McManus seems to breeze through with an enviable aplomb. "I learned it in college, my coach at Florida State (said) when you win, the head coach and the quarterback get all the praise, and when you lose, the head coach and the quarterback get all the blame." He reflects for a
moment. "And I don't mind that. I would rather take the blame, have the media come after me, than go after my players. If something went wrong, I'll take the majority of the blame. Now if we win, I push everything to the players. It's just been my style."
It's a style that makes for good team morale, and teammates like Mike Morreale and Darren Flutie have always been quick to defend Danny 'Mac' when he's under media fire. McManus readily acknowledges the Ti-Cats locker room chemistry. "It's been a pretty good group of guys in the locker room. You know, you've gotta have a thick skin just to be in our locker room - no one is too high, no one is too low. If a guy knows you're not going to bad mouth in the papers, then you know they've got respect for you. I've never done that to anybody before. Certainly, there's probably been times I would want to say something, but it's just not my nature to do that."
And from the locker room to the playing field? "Basically, on this squad, (my role is) just get the guys in the offence in the right box, and then orchestrate our game plan. We don't signal in our plays, I call all the plays during the game. So, during the week, it's me, the other quarterbacks and the coaches all working together to find out exactly what we'll do on a run. Once we're in the field, I try to orchestrate it."
Without signalling plays, McManus keeps the game plan close at hand - actually, written on his wrist. "I keep all the plays on there, by down and by distance, by placement on the field. We go in maybe with our top five plays, so when I go to a different zone, then I've got to switch the calling around. It's kind of easy - but a lot of quick decisions." And obviously, a lot of preparation beforehand. "A lot of times, I won't even look down at my sleeve, 'cause during the week, we go over all the the plays, over and over. The repetition helps out so much."
After 10 years in the CFL, you know Danny Mac isn't in it for widespread fame or riches. Apparently, he's just a guy who loves to play ball. "If it ever became a job, then I wouldn't play it anymore. It's still fun. It's hard to use that word for what I do - calling it a job - seeing the way other people work. You know, it used to be 9 to 5, now it's more like 8 to 8. We don't work that way, so it's hard for me to call it a job."
And after football? "I've had some thoughts about it. I'd like to be on the other side of football, on the management side. I guess my biggest thing would be to get a team together, like a general manager type, let the coaches handle (day to day stuff). I've also thought of doing radio, play by play as well. I just couldn't see working 9 to 5."
Along with some of the other Cats, McManus is involved in children's charities, the Children's Hospital in particular. "I just got a soft spot for kids," he explains. "I started in Edmonton, three years ago, for every touchdown pass, I donate $100." He's also a frequent visitor to the Hospital. "There's guys in that locker room that like to come down with me. You come to understand that, you talk about sports, it's just a game. But those kids that are in that hospital, that's life, that's reality. So I try and keep a balance with that. It's great to go in there and give the kids a smile."
It's also a good way for him and other players from outside the area to establish some roots in the community. "Yes - to give back," he agrees. "A lot of guys in the CFL do a lot for charity. We don't make tons of money, but we give a lot of things back to the comunity, doing promo stuff. I know Chris is doing things at the Children's Hospital, Phil, Mike.. That's the big thing I like about the CFL, how much we try and give back."
To borrow the title of Robert Neilson's 1973 book on Ti-Cat legend Garney Henley, you could call him a gentleman and a Tiger.