Where are they now? Ledyard's Manwaring lives in Boston, still using lessons learned as a Colonel
Alex Manwaring isn’t certain which team he was playing when he had his outburst during a 2010 football scrimmage his junior year (he thinks it was Platt), but what happened afterward remains one of his most vivid memories.
“It was our offensive line’s first time going up against a four-man front, and they were having a tough day,” said Manwaring, a three-sport student-athlete and 2012 Ledyard High School graduate. "On one particular play, I got the handoff, and as soon as I got the handoff, I got drilled in the backfield. And I just snapped at the line. ‘What the hell! Can we freaking block somebody? I’m getting killed!’
“Our offensive line coach, coach (Jeff) Ziegler grabbed me, he pulled me aside, and he was like, ‘don’t you ever talk to the line like that again. They don’t yell at you when you miss a hole and they block perfectly. This is their first time facing a four-man front. They’re learning. They’re getting better. They don’t need that. You need to lift them up. They don’t yell at you. You don’t yell at them.’”
That moment stuck with Manwaring. Through a senior year in which he had one of the greatest (and most industrious) seasons in Connecticut high school history. Through his time at WPI and Trinity. Through a series of jobs that have led him to managing a sales team in Boston at Privy, which sells software and offers support for small businesses.
“That was the ah-ha moment, the smack in the face, that I needed,” Manwaring said about Ziegler’s speech. “Really, from that moment on, it was something that was kind of imprinted in me. And you think about it now, even organizationally, all the lessons that can be applied there. Somebody messes up at work, you don’t jump down their throat, or you don’t start putting them on blast. You say, ‘hey, let’s get better. Let’s dissect it. What did we do wrong? How can we get better?’”
Few have ever had the kind of season that Manwaring did in 2011. He ran a ridiculous 389 times for 2,551 yards with 24 overall touchdowns as he helped the Colonels finish 11-2 and reach the CIAC Class M final.
“We were always a very, very balanced team,” former Ledyard head coach Jim Buonocore said. “That 2011 team, it was probably the most unbalanced team that I ever had. ... That team, we went to our strength (Manwaring) and continued to go to our strength over-and-over again. He ran the ball 46 times vs. Waterford in the game that ultimately led us to winning the division (Eastern Connecticut Conference Medium).”
Manwaring’s 2,551 rushing yards is 13th all-time in state history. Former Ansonia standout Montrell Dobbs is the only player ranked in the top 25 for most rushing yards in a season who had more carries (406) than Manwaring, according to the Connecticut High School Football Record Book.
Manwaring had 30-or-more carries in seven games that year and ran for 200 yards-or-more in six games. He rushed for a season-high 317 yards, then a school-record, with three touchdowns in a 38-7 win over Bacon Academy on Oct. 23.
Robert Bozym (right tackle), Alec Gabriel (right guard), Evan Stockmon (center) and Benjamin Morales (left guard), and Kyle Wilson (left tackle) paved the way for Manwaring that season.
The obvious question, then, is how was Manwaring able to hold up with that kind of workload? It helped that Buonocore didn’t play him on defense until late in the season, which Manwaring had been bugging him to do.
“I wonder that myself sometimes,” Manwaring said. “I was texting coach (Buonocore) about it recently ... I think it speaks to the preparation that we put in every single week, making sure that we put ample time into recovery, making sure we were icing up, stretching, taking care of our bodies, eating right.”
Note that Manwaring also wrestled (he was the 2012 Class M champion and State Open runner-up) and played lacrosse.
“Honestly, I’ve always kind of found that I’ve had relatively good stamina,” Manwaring said, “and it’s definitely a product, I think, of all the work in the offseason as well as during the season.”
On-and-off the field, Manwaring was a different kind of cat. One of Buonocore’s favorite Manwaring stories was when Manwaring asked him to write a letter of recommendation and, after he did so, Manwaring gave it back to him marked up in red ink.
“Alex was a special person,” Buonocore said. “He was a high school student who you could have conversations with and felt like you were talking to an adult. Just a neat, neat young man mature beyond his years.
“If you look at our playoff teams during my tenure, that (2011 team) might have been, and I don’t mean to say this the wrong way, but maybe the least talented of all the playoff teams. ... but you talk about some tough kids who bought into the process, who studied the game, who did every single thing you asked them to do to a T, led by Alex. And I think that’s what was so important, to have arguably your best player who was also your hardest worker.”
Manwaring agreed with Buonocore’s assessment of that 2011 team.
“I think our fastest 40 (yard time) was 4.86 (seconds),” Manwaring said. “I can tell you that wasn’t me. My 40 was like a 4.96. I remember breaking five (seconds) and I was pumped about breaking five. You go back and look at that team, we didn’t have much in terms of speed. We had decent size. We obviously knew we had a great offensive line.
“Going into the season, we were very self-aware of our physical limitations. So we knew, alright, how are we going to make up for that? It’s alignment, assignments and execution. Those were the three things coach would always talk about.
“We weren’t the most physically gifted, but fortunately, we kind of knew how to play with each other, how to use each other to our advantage. I mean, I knew I wasn’t going to outrun somebody, so I’m not going to run past my linemen. I’m going to let my linemen be the first person to hit the defender.”
Manwaring went to WPI after graduation, but transferred to Trinity after one semester. He had hoped to attend Trinity after high school in order to be close to home but was waitlisted. He majored in political science at Trinity and he did a legislative internship for State Representative Matthew Ritter, a Democrat from District 1 (Hartford) and the current House Majority Leader.
“That was an awesome experience,” Manwaring said. “I did have a genuine interest in politics. ... I always kind of joke that I was interested in politics but in order to make money, I feel like you either have to be corrupt or be a lobbyist, and I didn’t want to do either one of those things.”
Manwaring majored in political science because Trinity didn’t offer business or marketing, fields he expected to pursue after college.
“In terms of doing things I’m generally apt at, or skilled at,” Manwaring said, “having being relatively creative, a strong writer, interested in communication (and) people, how to persuade people, so to speak, I always just felt like those were a few strengths.”
Manwaring moved to Boston in 2016 and is coming up on his one-year anniversary at Privy and works with Mike Spellman, one of his former Ledyard teammates.
“The value of preparation, right, and how a bunch of guys that were relatively slow and undersized can have (great) results because they played together as a team,” Manwaring said. “They studied. They put in the work and effort.
“I always draw parallels between sports and life, work, relationships, that was really, I think, where the foundation was laid. It was out there on the athletic field.”
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