Greg Mancz has never been your typical college athlete.
“Not from Day 1,” said University of Toledo football coach Matt Campbell.
And now that the days are drawing short, with Mancz heading into his senior season on the Rockets’ offensive line, Campbell can hardly articulate his thoughts without sounding repetitious.
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But we can put them in an order that lends a timeline, of sorts, to the story.
■ “He was in our camp as a high school player. He’s the best offensive lineman I’ve ever seen in a summer camp.”
■ “Greg is the best offensive lineman I’ve coached.”
■ “He’s one of those young men you encounter very few times in a coaching career, and it’s very special.”
■ “Greg has always had an ambition … a full understanding that it’s not just about football. It’s about finding who you are as a total person and reaching your full potential.”
At a school that has produced the likes of NFL offensive linemen Nick Kaczur, John Greco, and Zac Kerin, all in the last decade, Mancz merits at least being mentioned in the same breath. By the time snow flies in December, we’ll have a better idea of just where he lines up in that quartet.
For now, he will line up either at right tackle or, for the first time, at center.
But enough about that. This story really is not about football.
So let’s start with basketball. After his 2010 redshirt season, Mancz wandered into Savage Arena one night and began supporting a bad team that would lose 28 games. Every time the video board cameras focused on the student section, there was Greg up on the big board. He couldn’t hide if he wanted to among all those empty seats.
Four years later, UT’s men won 27 games and it was hard for the cameras to find the super-fan, even if he stood 6-foot-5 and weighed a click or two over 300 pounds.
“It was nice to see the basketball arena full for games this past season,” he said. “It used to be just me up there being a lunatic. Now, everyone is crammed together, standing at both ends, and I can’t even get a seat. That’s cool.”
If this isn’t a basketball story, then it’s a service story. Mancz was president of the Student-Athlete Advisory Council last year, the first football player in at least 15 years to hold that post.
“The SAAC is a group of student-athletes picked to represent each university on a Mid-American Conference panel,” Mancz said. “What ideas work, which don’t, in terms of community service and campus involvement? The idea is to create better experiences for student-athletes. We all want to leave it better than we found it.”
He’s on UT’s Football Leadership Board. He was vice president of the Athletes in Action, Fellowship of Christian Athletes. He volunteers for just about every community and campus service project and organizes many of them. His favorite is the annual wheelchair basketball game against the Toledo Crash. Good guys, fun guys, tough guys, determined guys. Just like him.
“Coach Campbell has a motto. ‘Give more than you take.’ I’ve always liked that,” Mancz said. “A lot of us have taken it to heart. I hope other guys will follow in my footsteps and I can point them in the direction to do good things, the right things, for UT and Toledo.”
Finally, if this isn’t about football, basketball, or service, then maybe it should be about academics. Mancz is a post-grad student now. He already has a degree in finance and was a two-time All-MAC academic selection with a grade-point average around 3.5. He has spent three summers working for the Dave White auto dealerships, first as a general intern, later in finance and accounting.
Mancz’s father, Brian, passed away when Greg was in the sixth grade in Cincinnati, and Campbell said his offensive lineman has always been a responsible, mature, almost old soul.
“Greg had to grow up early in life,” Campbell said. “When his dad passed he grew up as the man of the family. He’s blessed athletically. He’s very athletic and tough. But a lot of what he has accomplished here is due to maturity and leadership skills and that’s because of the kind of man he had to become at an early age.
“I’m really proud of who he became, who he is, and what he means to our program and our university and community.”
There’s only one thing missing from a full resume. The Rockets have not won a MAC championship during Mancz’s 38 consecutive starts on the O-line. Media pollsters say that could change this year, one season after UT was a bowl also-ran with a 7-5 record.
“We did that to ourselves,” Mancz said. “There were multiple times we didn’t take care of business. I want this team to reach its full potential. The feeling last year was miserable.”
OK, so maybe this is a little about football. But so much more too.
“I’ve heard plenty of people talk about how they never left their dorm room, never really enjoyed college,” Mancz said. “I want to look back on it and know that I took advantage of every opportunity I could in college to enjoy it, to make relationships, to be involved, and to have some fun.”
Contact Blade sports columnist Dave Hackenberg at: email@example.com or 419-724-6398.