Hardly anyone had a better high school football season last fall than Rick Manago of Anacostia, but hardly any college coaches have taken notice. He hopes that will change Saturday night.
"I hope something comes of the game," Manago said. "I love football. I love to play football. I want to play college football."
Manago will start at free safety in the 18th annual D.C. Coaches' Association East-West All-Star Game Saturday at Cardozo at 5. He was selected to the Interhigh all-conference team after leading the league with 11 interceptions. That figure was all the more impressive considering Manago, 5-foot-10, 155 pounds, was in his first season at the varsity level. Until last year, he said he never had enough interest in football to try out for the team.
"He was a big surprise," said Anacostia defensive coach Eddie Williams. "The question I asked was why he didn't play before? He was a kid who was very knowledgeable of the game. He just needed someone to bring it out of him. It's very hard to learn our system in one year and be a leader in our system. Rick was both."
Said Manago: "To be honest with you, I looked at the All-Met team and saw that the people in my position had seven or eight interceptions and I felt bad I didn't even make honorable mention. All my friends kept saying, 'It's because they don't know about you, Rick.' "
He quickly had made a name for himself in the league, including three interceptions against Eastern and two against Ballou. Opponents started to avoid throwing to his side of the field, but "by watching the quarterback's eyes" Manago always seemed to get another interception.
"When a big play was needed, I used to always think when I was back in my stance, 'I'm going to do it,' " Manago said. "Throw it my way. I like the ball to come to me . . . so I can get the spotlight play. I like that."
"He's a good ballplayer," said Eastern Coach James Fields. " . . . Somebody just needs to give him a shot."
If Manago doesn't get a scholarship, he likely will attend Howard University to study computer science and might be a walk-on. Either way, he cherishes the memories of last season, the thrill of an interception.
"It feels real good, like an explosion inside," Manago said. "Everybody's cheering and it's like everybody's looking at you on that one play."