|Senior WR Manuel Johnson|
Johnson, or as the folks back home would say "little Manny," is a laid back kid from Gilmer, Texas, a country town of about 4,800 people. Growing up in Gilmer was very much like Friday Night Lights, where football is life and football players are superstars.
Johnson may be small in stature and come from a small town, but his big heart and winning attitude allowed him to excel at every sport with which he involved himself, including football, basketball, baseball and track. As a quarterback for the Buckeyes of Gilmer High, Johnson led his team to its first-ever state championship in 2004.
And although Johnson is now flying to pull down the pigskin as a starting wide receiver for Sooners, he used his high-flying ability to soar to state titles in both the long jump and triple jump. Athletic accomplishments are not the only gold stars on Johnson's résumé. He was in the spotlight during high school where his accolades included most handsome, most athletic and Mr. Gilmer High School.
Johnson may be small
in stature but his heart
and winning attitude
allow him to excel
in everything he does.
"I had to go about three days that week and practice," Johnson said. "The show was live, so I had to get it right the first time."
Johnson's brief experiences in front of the camera have unearthed an interest away from the gridiron.
"I would definitely consider acting," a smiling Johnson said. "I love the camera and the camera loves me."
Is he the next Denzel Washington? Johnson certainly thinks he could be and OU wide receivers coach Jay Norvell thinks his receiver is prepared.
"He acts every day at practice," Norvell said. "I'm not sure about the next Denzel, but maybe Dave Chappelle."
Comedian Dave Chappelle would not be outside of Johnson's range. Johnson said he could see himself playing Chris Tucker in a comedy/action film.
Is he the next Denzel
Washington? While his
is questioned by some,
thinks he could be.
"I think he better stick to football," Iglesias said. "If I were with him, he could make it. If I gave him a pep talk and had a star role, too, I could be Jamie Foxx and he would be Denzel."
For now, this dynamic duo will entertain fans in the Crimson and Cream and Hollywood will have to remain a dream.
Johnson not only has the potential to be a character on the big screen, he displays character every day as a person.
Whether Johnson was performing in church plays, scoring touchdowns on the football field or giving the hometown sports fans the latest news in high school sports, his competitive attitude made him always reach for the best.
"My competitiveness drives me to stand out," Johnson said. "I want the spotlight. Whether it was calling shotgun or getting the lead role in the play, I've always had to be the best."
During the 2006 season, his sophomore season, Johnson was seriously injured after a reception against Texas Tech. He was knocked out and carried off the field on a stretcher as his teammates and 85,000 fans stood still. His mother and the rest of his family did not want him to continue playing football, but Johnson was not willing to give up.
"It's part of the game," Johnson said. "You have to bounce back and play. I was blessed so I had to keep going."
His teammate and his coach see Johnson's characer.
drives me to stand
out. I want the
spotlight. I've always
had to be the best."
"He is my little brother," Iglesias said. "I love him to death."
When Johnson leaves OU, look for him to be playing football on Sundays, reporting the latest in sports on television, or scoring big in the box office. No matter what, this small kid from a small town will use his big heart and winning attitude to get to the top.
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Feature by Jennifer Van Tuyl | OU Athletics Media Relations
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