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Young Manumaleuna a threat, still a role player


The stadium announcer at Penn State started, paused and then gave it his best shot.

”Pass caught by Arizona Wildcats’ tight end, No. 90, Brandon . . . Manulanu . . . Manalani . . . No. 90.”

If you think announcers have a tough time with Brandon Manumaleuna, consider defenders who try to wrestle with the 6-foot-2, 288-pound tight end.

The junior caught four passes for 75 yards in last week’s loss to Stanford, increasing his total to 10 catches for 128 yards on the season. That includes his first career touchdown nearly three weeks ago at Texas Christian University.

”That’s why I like offense,” said Manumaleuna, who also has played defensive tackle for the Wildcats. ”That’s the fun part of the football game, catching passes and trying to make plays.”

Part of making plays for a tight end involves the running game. Manumaleuna had a good teacher last year in UA senior Mike Lucky, who was drafted by the Dallas Cowboys and earned a roster spot.

”Mike Lucky really helped me with the technique part and attitude part of the game,” Manumaleuna said. ”He showed me what your attitude had to be to play the game, and he helped me learn to raise my tempo during the game.”

Arizona head coach Dick Tomey was no stranger to the Manumaleuna family when Brandon was being recruited out of Narbonne High School in Torrance, Calif. Tomey coached his father, Frank Manumaleuna, when Tomey was a UCLA assistant.

Frank Manumaleuna’s career as a Bruin ended prematurely when he injured his spine in his first and only game at UCLA.

However, as a true freshman in that game in 1974, Frank made an immediate impact, earning Chevrolet Player of the Game honors after making 25 tackles in a nationally televised contest against Tennessee.

”It was an awesome, awesome display,” Tomey said. ”Frank was a terrific player.”

Frank went on to play basketball for one year at UCLA and junior college football for two seasons before finishing up as a linebacker at San Jose State.

”They’re similar athletes,” Tomey said of father and son, ”but they’re both low-key guys who are very athletic.”

Manumaleuna started seven games for the Cats last year in either double tightend formations or as an Hback. He caught six passes for 22 yards, catching a pair of passes against both Hawaii and San Diego State.

In 1997, he ended the season as the team’s Bronko Nagurski Award winner for making the biggest contribution on both sides of the ball.

”When we first recruited him, I said I’d love for him to be a defensive lineman,” Tomey said. ”He wanted to play tight end, but he could play on defense again.

”He’s still a pup, and he’ll keep growing. I can’t begin to tell you how bright his future is.”

Even though he’s a junior, Manumaleuna is only 19 years old, playing as a freshman at 17.

”Because he’s been so young, it’s been all kind of new to him, and he’s just now gaining the maturity that he needs to really develop himself,” Tomey said. ”He’s going to get stronger and quicker. He’s just scratching the surface.”

With wide receiver Brad Brennan lost for the season with a hamstring injury, Manumaleuna’s role takes on an added importance.

His pass-catching ability will help take the pressure off All-Pac-10 receiver Dennis Northcutt.

”If you have a tight end who can be a threat inside – particularly a tight end who runs as well as he does and one that’s as big as he is – that makes people think twice about doubling your receivers,” Tomey said.

Fine with Manumaleuna. He said he understands his role on offense, whether it’s hauling down passes or pushing around defenders to clear room for running backs.

”You always know you can do something, but until you do it, you don’t know for sure,” Manumaleuna said. ”We have to get going and take care of our mistakes. We have to improve what we’re doing fundamentally.”


Junior Tight End

6-2, 288

Torrance, Calif. (Narbonne HS)

Year Catches Yards TD

1997* 0 0 0

1998 6 22 0

1999 10 128 1

*Also played defensive line

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