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Now, Manley Moves People With Words

"I don't want to disappoint people anymore," Manley said. "I don't want to disappoint myself. I looked at my shoelaces for so long with shame and embarrassment, not feeling worthy. I felt worthless, like a menace to society. But today is not like that. People will believe in me again. It will take time. But believe me, it will happen. I'm taking back control."

Control, Manley said, moves from the inside out, which is why he's become a slave to discipline. When he wakes up, usually between 3 and 5 a.m., Manley goes to the treadmill in his Silver Spring apartment building and runs for about an hour. He sets the treadmill to its highest speed and runs 200-meter sprints, sometimes in as little as 25 seconds. In a typical workout, he burns about 900 calories.


"Anywhere he goes, he gets showered in love and attention. It makes him so happy," Lydia Manley says of her husband Dexter, a former Redskin standout. (Marvin Joseph -- The Washington Post)


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He lifts weights, too, though he's having trouble finding somebody to spot him. His friend Alan Golden, a pediatric dentist, worked out with Manley for two weeks -- and developed a hernia. "Dexter's a machine," Golden said. "If he stepped on the field today, people would still be afraid of him."

Drug use, remarkably, has not damaged him physically. He's still muscular and good looking, and vain because of it. He gets facials. He wears braces to correct an underbite. He dresses impeccably. Even cufflinks, Manley said, must match the rest of an outfit.

After his morning workout, Manley goes to Jamba Juice and throws down a 2-oz. shot of wheat grass, which allegedly makes for clear, healthy skin. He rarely eats red meat and hasn't consumed any kind of sugar for six months. Illiterate until he learned to read at 30, Manley thumbs through both The Washington Post and the New York Times before he goes to work.

"When I say I'm going to be healthy," Manley said, "I'm talking about totally healthy."

But even purity -- even complete control -- cannot rectify other damage done by drug abuse. Manley's apartment is devoid of the artifacts star athletes often treasure. A trophy case in the living room displays a golden football to commemorate his 2002 selection as one of the Redskins' greatest 70 players of all-time, and he keeps a box of old football photographs at the edge of his bed. Every other football souvenir is long gone, sold by a storage facility when Manley couldn't pay the bill about five years ago.

Buy it all back? Impossible. Manley never made more than $750,000 in a single season, so the $12 million he spent on drugs and drug-related issues left him deeply in debt. Lydia wants to move into a house in Chevy Chase. But, Manley said, that's not in the current budget.

To make money, Manley plans to speak at churches and various functions across the country. He charges between $3,500 and $5,000 for a weekend of speeches, and he would like to travel and speak twice a month. On Super Bowl Sunday, he spoke before about 1,000 at a church in California. With Brotman's help, Manley has booked a half dozen similar engagements over the next several months.

"My ministry will be nationwide," Manley said. "America loves a success story. They love it when a person falls and gets right back up. That's what this country is all about -- the underdog, the one everybody gives up on, who comes back and wins their respect."


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