Four years ago in the inaugural Mayor’s Cup, Brandon McManus, then a true freshman, made his collegiate debut.
Redshirt-senior placekicker Jake Brownell missed a 35-yard field goal early in the second quarter, and McManus was inserted into the game before converting a 25-yard field goal and adding three extra points in a 27–24 loss to Villanova.
McManus has kicked every field goal for the Owls since. His journey came full circle in the fourth annual Mayor’s Cup on Aug. 31, when McManus became Temple’s all-time leading field goal kicker, surpassing Bill Wright (1985–88) with the 47th and 48th field goals of his career in the 41–10 win.
“I knew last year at the bowl game I tied Bill Wright with 46, and these two gave me a chance to break the record,” McManus said. “I’m honored to break the record at such an established school like Temple.”
As a result of his efforts, McManus was named Big East Conference Specialist of the Week.
“[McManus] is a real weapon,” coach Steve Addazio said. “He’s a great kicker. I’m really happy for him.”
McManus could finish his career as the most decorated specialist in Temple history. In addition to the field goal record, McManus passed Paul Palmer (1983–86) on Temple’s all-time points list against Villanova and is now 50 points behind Bernard Pierce for that record. Another full healthy season for McManus, who has started 38 consecutive games for Temple since his 2009 debut, will place him at No. 1.
A Big 33 selection from North Penn High School, McManus was the only freshman to play every game in 2009. He tied Pierce for most points on the team in his first year, led the team in scoring his sophomore year and placed second behind Pierce in his record-breaking season last year. He was named to the 2011 All Mid-American Conference Second Team and to the 2012 College Football Performance Awards Preseason Watch Lists at placekicker and specialist.
McManus was asked to take on the role of team punter before his junior season in addition to his contributions at field goal and kickoff. In his first year on the job last season, McManus led the MAC and set a team record at Temple for punt average in a season with 45.8 yards per punt. He is one of eight specialists in the country who handles all kicking duties for his team.
McManus, who prior to 2011 hadn’t practiced punting since high school, said he pays more attention to punting when balancing his training regimen, mostly because of his confidence in the other aspects of his game.
“Out of high school, I knew I was good at kickoff,” McManus said. “I thought I was one of the best kickoff guys in the country and I still believe that now. I focus more on punting because I’m new to it. I’m trying to become a legit and elite punter.”
Redshirt-junior quarterback Chris Coyer said McManus’ abilities put the whole team in a position to win.
“A 61-yard punt does a lot for field position,” Coyer said. “[McManus] can boot it down the field that far, and we know once we get inside the 35-yard line, we’ve got a pretty good chance to get that field goal.”
“We really stress winning the field position battle, and we know special teams is the only way to do it,” McManus said. “We have [senior running back] Matt Brown on punt returns, and you never know what he’s going to do with the ball in his hands.”
The team’s confidence in McManus’ leg is so great that it led to Addazio second-guessing a decision he made in the second quarter against Villanova when he went for it on fourth down instead of letting McManus attempt a 43-yard field goal. The Owls failed to convert, and the Wildcats scored a touchdown on the ensuing drive.
“I probably should’ve kicked the field goal,” Addazio said. “It was the right thing to do for demeanor, but we have a lot of confidence in our field goal kicker. That’s a really makeable field goal for him.”
McManus said he prides himself on being a leader, and not reinforcing the stereotype of a kicker who keeps his head down and doesn’t fit in with the rest of the team.
“I’m not like that in any way,” McManus said. “I always thought I was a leader from the get-go. I watch football so much and I’m really encouraging to other people. I know what’s right from wrong off the field. I know how to help these guys grow up at college.”
While the team voted safety Justin Gildea, defensive end Marcus Green and offensive lineman Martin Wallace, as team captains, Coyer said McManus is just as worthy of that title as any of them.
“[McManus] has fit in from Day One,” Coyer said. “There’s something to say about a kicker who will go down on kickoff and actually put his nose in on a tackle.”
“He always provides energy,” Coyer added. “Off the field, he’s a funny guy. He likes to have a lot of fun, but he gives everyone juice. He’s been here a long time so there’s a lot we can draw from him as a leader.”
Addazio said the team will have to continue to rely on McManus throughout the team’s first season back into the Big East Conference.
“[McManus is] a great kid,” Addazio said. “I think he’s terrific. I love his competitiveness and he’s a heck of a football player. I hope he keeps playing at that level. We need every weapon we can get.”
“I know these people respect me and what I’ve done here, and that’s all I really need,” McManus said. “They know that I’m going to do my job.”
Joey Cranney can be reached at email@example.com on on Twitter @joey_cranney.