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Midlands colleges male athlete of the year Manhart ready to work for a chance at the NFL

Midlands colleges male athlete of the year Manhart ready to work for a chance at the NFL

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Cole Manhart is taking the week off, spending time with his family and enjoying Colorado.

He just finished a strenuous six weeks in Philadelphia, taking what he hopes is the first step toward making the Eagles’ roster. He needs to let his body heal and the mountains are the perfect medicine.

Not that he’s complaining about the hard work.

“Being able to play with the best players in the world and to learn from them is really something special,” Manhart said. “It’s a really cool experience to be out there every day.”

The 6-foot-6, 310-pound Manhart was picked up as a free agent after a standout career at left tackle for the University of Nebraska at Kearney. He was named a first-team All-American by four outlets last fall and was a unanimous All-MIAA selection for the second straight year.

He’s also been chosen as The World-Herald Midlands colleges male athlete of the year. Schools nominated finalists and the winner was chosen by a four-person committee.

Former UNK assistant Parker Jolly said he can’t imagine a more deserving candidate. The two-time captain had a 3.68 GPA in criminal justice and was very active in the community.

“He set the example on and off the field,” Jolly said. “He’s got that fire in his belly that really pushes him. On the field he was a general and off the field he was a gentleman.”

Because Manhart is smart, physical and a great athlete, Jolly thinks he has a good shot at making it with the Eagles.

Manhart is determined to succeed. He gave it his all during a six-week schedule of team meetings, lifting, practice, lunch and then more meetings.

“It was really great,” Manhart said. “I learned just as much as I learned in college in that six weeks.”

The speed of the game at the NFL level was a surprise. He got daily feedback from Eagles coaches and after resting up this week, will devote his time to working on his footwork and getting better with his hands. He plans to train with NFL veteran Matt McChesney in Colorado.

“I would be lying if I said making the team is easy,” Manhart said. “There’s 90 guys, 53 will make the team. I just have to come in in the next month and have a good showing and show I deserve to be on the Philadelphia Eagles.”

Manhart said it may be a tougher battle because he didn’t get as much big-time exposure playing for a Division II school. But it would mean a lot to him to show other players at his level that it can be done.

Manhart doesn’t regret his college choice, saying he had great support from former coach Darrell Morris, the administration and the community.

Kearney fans are the best in the world, he said. “Kearney will always have a special place in my heart.”

If things don’t work out, Manhart would consider going into the military. Both of his parents are in the Air Force, but he’s more interested in the Marine Corps.

That is something he hopes is put on the back burner by an NFL career.

“I love playing football,” Manhart said. “That is my dream. It means the world to me.”

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