By JOHN JAMES MARSHALL, Journal Sports
About that nickname of “Tudda” … Benton’s Greg Manning says he has no idea where it came from, who gave it to him and, for that matter, what it actually means.
Which is a little unusual, because when you talk about Greg Manning, the running back, everything is about as straight forward as it can be.
That’s obvious, since he says his favorite thing about football is “running over people” when he is carrying the ball.
“I don’t really get to do that too often,” Manning says, “So I just try to make a big play.”
Head coach Reynolds Moore knows something else that’s obvious about Manning. “He wants the ball and it’s not in a selfish way,” Moore says. “He’s never asked me how many yards he has or anything like that. He’s one of my favorites I’ve ever coached.”
Through three wild years of Benton football, Manning has been a constant. Last year, when the Tigers were averaging more than a point a minute with frenetic offense, Manning was there to take care of the running game and get the tough yards.
This year, when things started a little shaky for the Tigers as they tried to adjust to some serious graduation losses (only five returning starters), there was Manning piling up yard after yard, carry after carry. Even on kickoff and punt returns, where Moore says the goal is “to get the ball in the hands of Number 1 as often as possible.”
Lately, Benton has undergone a resurgence, winning their last three games to even the record at 4-4 and 3-2 in District 1-5A. And Manning hasn’t missed a beat. A week ago against Haughton, he accounted for five touchdowns (four rushing, one receiving) and rushed for 138 yards in a 62-41 win.
And if you think five touchdowns in a game is a big deal, strap in for this: Last year, he scored eight in one game (seven rushing, one receiving).
Manning has now taken to assaulting the Caddo-Bossier record book. The 5-foot-8, 160-pound Manning is currently in sixth place in career rushing and will be looking to move up that ladder when the Tigers take on Captain Shreve Friday night at Jerry Burton Stadium on the campus of Northwood.
This season, he has 1,201 yards on 193 carries and 19 touchdowns, He also had 27 catches for 354 yards and two scores.
He’ll first try to break the school rushing record (he needs 71 yards to break the record of 3,822 yards by Demond Wheatley) and then will need to get 277 to move into second-place in Caddo Bossier history.
“But we are going into the last two weeks against two of the best run defenses we will face all year in Shreve and Parkway,” Moore said. “So that will make it tougher.”
He is also more of the focus of opposing teams than a year ago. (But he scored 33 touchdowns last year, so it wasn’t like nobody noticed him.) “It’s very different (than last year),” Manning says. “But I approached this season the same as I did last year.”
“He just goes so hard all the time,” Moore says. “There is not a time when you could ask for more from him. There’s never any question about whether there is anything left in the tank. He plays with all heart.”
But with all the records and honors and recognition Manning has received in football, he will admit that his favorite sport is “probably basketball” as he is the point guard on the Tigers’ team.
“When you see him in the hallway, he moves kind of slow,” Moore says. “And he might be the last guy off the bus and can be nonchalant about it. But when it comes time, he has been that guy who has gotten it done.”
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