MISSION VIEJO – Capistrano Valley quarterback Nathan Manning likes what he has seen of the player on film.
“Really quick,” he says with a shy smile. “Athletic.”
Manning could be describing a player on El Toro’s defense, which he will face Friday night, Oct. 13, in a Sea View League showdown at El Toro High. But instead he is paying homage to his father, Tim Manning, a former Trabuco Hills football standout.
The elder Manning was one of Orange County’s top football and basketball players in the late 1980s. His highlights at Trabuco Hills included setting an Orange County record with 24 career interceptions, playing in a state basketball final and earning athlete of the year honors from the Orange County Athletic Directors Association.
“He has a tape that he shown me at home,” the younger Manning said before a practice this week at Capistrano Valley. “He’s proud of it.”
The 6-foot, 180-pound junior has clearly emerged as a worthy challenger for El Toro quarterback Cooper Jones, a senior who has thrown for 1,997 yards and 23 touchdowns.
Manning’s numbers are especially impressive since he mostly played wide receiver last season.
“I’m not overly surprised because I just know how good he is,” Capistrano Valley coach Ernie Bucher said of Manning. “What I like about Nathan is that he is so coachable.”
Manning credits his father for helping increase his knowledge of defensive schemes.
“He watches film with me a lot,” Manning said of his father, a versatile player at Trabuco Hills who went on to Cal and now works for Mazda. “He’s my biggest supporter.”
Manning calls Capistrano Valley offensive coordinator Josh Tribe one of his smartest coaches. The Cougars continue to run a no-huddle, spread attack under Tribe, Bucher’s offensive coordinator of five seasons.
“He knows this offense crazy well,” Manning said of Tribe, who helped develop quarterback Kevin Brown, a key member of the Cougars’ team last season that was the CIF-SS Division 5 runner-up. “He definitely teaches you how to pick apart an offense.”
Manning also praises his private quarterback coach Bill Cunerty.
“I’ve been working with him since the eighth grade,” he said of the quarterback guru. “He’s been a big part of my development.”
Cunerty has been on Manning’s mind this fall. The former Saddleback College and Capistrano Valley coach is fighting Parkinson’s disease, a disorder of the nervous system.
“I’ve been praying for him,” said Manning, who carries a 4.0 grade-point average and serves as a team captain. “He’s one of my favorite people of all-time.”
Cunerty feels the same way about his latest protégé. He said Manning’s personality reminds him of another quarterback he trained: former Mater Dei standout Matt Barkley, now with the San Francisco 49ers.
“Both faith-based kids who really put their teammates ahead of themselves,” Cunerty said. “He’s just the kind of kid that kids want to follow.”
Manning also has trained with Jordan Palmer, the former Mission Viejo quarterback and brother of Carson Palmer of the Arizona Cardinals.
As Cunerty noted, Manning is quick to recognize his teammates’ role in his rise. He has bonded with senior wide receivers Michael Dyer, Matt Blethen and Gianni Munoz. The trio has combined for 81 receptions for 1,037 yards.
“We put in a ton of work over the offseason,” Manning said. “We definitely have to put points on the board (this week) because (El Toro) has a great offense.”
The Cougars’ offensive line also has been critical to Manning’s success.
Despite two injuries, the group has protected Manning well. The line features left tackle Ossy Torres, left guard Dakota Robson, center Otan Motamedi, right guard Trevor Hardtke and right tackle Jake George. Motamedi and Hardtke have replaced injured Kian Tanaka (knee) and Cade Yancey (ankle).
“Offensive line has really done a great job,” Manning said. “They’ve lived up to the expectations big-time.”
Manning knows about expectations. Like his father, he’s a multi-sport athlete. He plays basketball and baseball, the latter of which rivals football for his favorite sport.
Manning wore his father’s No. 22 jersey in youth sports but has broken away somewhat in high school. He now dons No. 2.
“I’m trying to make a name for myself,” he said. “But obviously, he’s not a bad person to model.”