Life After Hughson High: Jeremy Mankins

Conor McGill , Sports Chief

For many athletes at Hughson High, the hope of playing sports beyond high school may seem like a far fetched dream. But little do they know, Hughson has had many athletes go on to play college and professional sports. In this first of its kind edition, we take a look at those athletes who have made their mark in the sports world beyond high school.

Putting many obstacles behind him, displaying the true meaning of hard work, and achieving his dreams and goals is Jeremy Mankins, Hughson High Alumni of the Class of 1995.

Picking up the football for the first time in 6th grade, Mankins from the start put the time and effort in to become a better athlete. His dedication surely paid off in 7th grade when he got the start at DE [defensive end]. Unfortunately, the following year the local youth football league placed weight restrictions on players. Leaving football out of the picture for Mankins during his eighth-grade year.

After sitting out a year of football, Mankins decided it was time to get back to work his Freshman year at Hughson High. Within two games of the season, Mankins was moved up to junior varsity level. Following his freshman year, he got the start at left tackle on the Varsity team, he was the only Sophomore on the team. That season the team were Tri TVL Champs and D III Section Champs getting a 27-21 win over Calaveras.

During Mankins senior year, things turned for the worst as he went down in a mid-season matchup versus Patterson with a broken leg ending his high school football season. Prior to his injury, Mankins was being recruited by football powerhouses Colorado and Washington State, but due to his injury, both schools pulled their interest. Leaving only the University of the Pacific, but unfortunately, that football program was dismissed in the spring of 96’, Mankins’ senior year, leaving Mankins in a hole and without a college to play for.

When Mankins could of simply just called his football career quits, he decided to keep his hope alive taking a recruiting visit to Arizona State University. Following the visit, Mankins was offered a full ride scholarship, but due to unforeseen scholarship costs by the University, the school cut multiple players due to budget restraints and had to let Mankins go. Arizona felt terrible for the cut so the coaches reached out to Boise State and the University of Las Vegas on Mankins behalf. Mankins later took on Boise State’s offer expressing his liking of the town and coaching staff.

After taking the offer, Mankins redshirted his freshman year, but soon he got his college start October 5th of 1996 when his teammate went down with an injury. His start came with a very familiar team, the Arizona State Sun Devils who had just released him. Playing in front of a packed crowd of 49,108 people in hot Tempe, Arizona, the Broncos ended up falling 56-7. Despite the loss, Mankins improved game by game throughout his early college years. But things once again turned for the worst his junior year of college when Mankins went down with a torn meniscus. Thinking back to the time he missed his senior year of high school, Mankins decided to tough it out and played out his last two years of college football – pushing through the pain of a torn meniscus.

When asked what set Mankins apart from others, former teammate Scott Huff expressed simply his presence on and off the field.

“Even though he was a total beast on the field he was very kind and gentle off the field. He was a husband first, a great student and teammate next. He did it the right way and he was a great role model for young players,” expressed Huff.

Mankins decision to be a role model athlete both on and off the field really spoke to his teammates and coaches.

“Jeremy was a Senior when I played next to him on the OL [offensive lineman] as a RS [red shirt] freshman. As a young center, you couldn’t have had a better guy play next to you. I would set the scheme and he would be the muscle. He was a physically dominant player. When you are young like I was, playing next to a guy like that gives you a lot of confidence,” Scott Huff, former teammate shared.

Following his college years at Boise State, Mankins looked towards his biggest goal, playing in the NFL (National Football League). So Mankins entered in the 2000 NFL draft. Joining Mankins would be his fellow Boise State teammates Dave Stachelski and Brian Johnson. Stachelski was the first to be taken out of three in the 5th round by the New England Patriots. Following the pick of his teammate, Mankins was nervous but hopeful that he could very well be next. Unfortunately, Mankins would go undrafted.

Following the draft, he was offered free agent contracts by the San Diego Chargers, Pittsburgh Steelers and Detroit Lions. Mankins decided to go with the Lions inking a contract of $193,000 becoming the first ever player from Hughson High to sign with an NFL team.

It was in this environment that Mankins achieved his lifelong dream of playing with the NFL.  Coaches and teammates alike remember him as a hard working athlete.

“He was always very competitive, and he was a self-starter. He got along with his teammates. Sometimes guys have a hard time adjusting, he didn’t. Sometimes you come from a smaller school like Boise State – Boise State was looked at as a small school back then – and it’s too big for you. It wasn’t too big for him, that’s the biggest thing. I think that was what impressed me about him. He also had the right makeup to succeed – he had the competitiveness, the attitude, and the character,” Paul Ruel, former Detroit Lions and current Seattle Seahawks coach stated.

Ruel then went on to say even more about what had made Mankins a player to be remembered.

“He played hard. I think coaches always have a tendency to keep players that represent what coaches like. Before we like talent, we like guys who give great effort. If they have the talent, then that’s a plus. It’s the effort that we look for and he had that. I think that coming in from Boise State, he felt like he had something to prove. He felt that he had a reason to show everybody that he belonged in the NFL.”-Paul Ruel

For many Hughson High students who aspire the same dream, as Jeremy Mankins, they themselves can succeed given the right mindset.

NFL Seattle Seahawks Offensive Line Coach Pat Ruel advised Hughson High athletes, “Don’t let people define who you are, you define who you are. Often times what happens is when you come from a small high school or a small college, people already define you as you aren’t good enough to play on the big stage. I just think that if you’re in a smaller school, you define who you are. You do that by showing your competitiveness and your hard-work and then letting your talent come to the top. The thing that’s wrong with a lot of players coming out of smaller schools is they use that as an excuse for why they can’t make it and that’s the exact opposite of how you do make it. You make it by not making excuses.”