Austin’s influence helped WVU land top recruit
NEW WEST VIRGINIA football signee Deontay McManus was playing Pop Warner football when he first caught wind of Tavon Austin.
McManus had heard Austin ran like the wind at his soon-to-be new school, Dunbar High in Baltimore.
"He was one of the greatest running backs to ever come out of Maryland," McManus said.
Austin, now WVU's flashy receiver, is indeed one of the best from the Old Line State. He owns Maryland high school records in points (790), touchdowns (123), total offensive yards (9,258) and rushing yards (7,962).
McManus wanted to follow in Austin's footsteps.
Then. And now.
That's why on Wednesday, McManus, a 6-foot-2, 210-pound slot receiver, signed with the Mountaineers. The signee is perhaps the highest-rated recruit in coach Dana Holgorsen's first class.
McManus was a three-year two-way starter for Dunbar with all the accolades, including two years on the consensus all-state defensive team. He was a four-star recruit and had offers from Alabama, Auburn, Clemson, Georgia, Maryland, Miami, Michigan, Ohio State, Oregon, Tennessee, you name it.
Yet McManus - who has been clocked in the 40-yard dash in 4.47 seconds - fast arrived at his decision to attend WVU.
"I fell in love with the place when I first got there," McManus said. "Coach Holgorsen, Coach [Daron] Roberts, the campus ... And the fans there love me. I could see myself there.
"Plus, there's the offense. They run the spread and throw the ball a lot. And Coach Holgorsen said they will throw more next season."
McManus said he was impressed Holgorsen has coached receivers like NFL player Michael Crabtree, but the impetus to the signing keeps returning to Austin. That even extends to how Holgorsen said McManus would be used.
"I'll be a slot," McManus said, "but they said they'll line me up in the backfield too."
Like they've done with Austin?
"Yep," McManus said.
McManus compares his style of play to that of Anquan Boldin, 6-1, 223 pounds, of the Baltimore Ravens. That, of course, is a contrast to the slight but dynamic Austin.
But back to that connection between McManus and Austin. It runs deep.
"Tavon is like my big brother," McManus said. "In my freshman year, he was a senior [at Dunbar High]. When I went into the weight room, he showed me the ropes. He said I could be something special.
"I'm hoping he'll put me under his wing [in Morgantown] like he did at Dunbar. I hope he'll show me the ropes. I'll use that to my advantage."
McManus is unabashedly proud of his relationship with Austin.
"I talk to him all the time," said the signee. "He was here [in Baltimore] a couple days ago. I call when I need him."
McManus, who also played basketball but stopped after his sophomore year, might one day have another former Dunbar teammate around. WVU has already offered the Poets' quarterback, William Crest, a scholarship as an athlete in the 2014 class.
It will take time to see how that deal unfolds. But for McManus, the process was swift. He had offers from most of the nation's most highly acclaimed schools, including, he said, Big 12 kingpin Texas, but took no official visits.
"Ever since I went [to Morgantown], I knew," McManus said. "I went there for a 7-on-7 camp and committed last summer."
Was he even tempted to check out the other schools?
"I was tempted," he said. "I didn't close any doors. But I knew in my mind where I wanted to go."
McManus, by the way, is confident he's not only headed to WVU, but in good academic standing.
"I just got my report card [Thursday]," he said. "Got all B's. I'm definitely good to go. I needed 10 points on my SAT and should get that back in a week or two."
And if there are no stiff breezes, expect McManus to fly like the wind at WVU.
"I'm a physical playmaker," said the receiver. "I will just be an animal on the field. I'm a playmaker - for real."
Reach Mitch Vingle at 304-348-4827, firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him at twitter.com/MitchVingle.