October 27, 2012

Unleashed On The Field

By Carly Grimaudo
Special to GoHolyCross.com

Upon meeting Tom Mannix, the quiet, shy strong safety for the Holy Cross football team, one would be quite surprised to discover the relentlessness and intensity he brings out on the field. The talented senior captain whose 6'0", 177-pound stature may seem large to the average person, is actually on the smaller side in the world of football. It will not take long for any opponent who underestimates Mannix because of his size however, to realize the immediate threat he imposes on the opposing team's offenses through his passion.

From his Pop Warner days beginning at age five, to closing out his senior year of college, the sport of football has always been an existing presence and huge component of Mannix's life. Though he was also pretty heavily involved in baseball up through middle school, once he arrived as a freshman at Brearley High School, the New Jersey native's passion for football overrode any desire to continue his baseball career. With all of his focus and commitment geared towards football, Mannix was able to utilize and heighten his already prominent talent, resulting in great success both with his team and individually.

Overall, Mannix recorded 259 total tackles, 15 pass breakups, eight fumble recoveries, seven interceptions and four forced fumbles throughout his high school career. He even doubled as Brearley's quarterback — tallying 3,111 yards and 41 touchdowns during his four years — though modestly joking today, "I rarely threw the ball, and at one point I had 36 carries in just one game." Mannix's numerous individual high school accolades include, but are not limited to, two-time Group I All-State honors, three-time All-Mountain Valley Conference selection and two-time Newark Star Ledger first team All-Union County honors. Additionally, he helped lead his team to three Mountain Valley Conference titles and the 2006 state championship, which he recalls as one of his greatest sports memories to date, where his team earned the championship title by just one point in the game held before thousands at Giants Stadium.

After a tremendous high school football career, declaring Holy Cross as the next move was a "no-brainer," Mannix stated. As a college with outstanding academics and football tradition, enrolling at Holy Cross was the perfect way for him to challenge himself both in the classroom and on the field. Also, by choosing a school within a reasonable distance from his hometown of Kenilworth, N.J., Mannix assured that the constant support and encouragement of his family, which guided him up to the Division I collegiate level would remain intact throughout his four-year college career. With his parents in the crowd at every game, and his three sisters making frequent appearances as well, Mannix plays each day knowing his loving family will never miss a tackle.

While struggling to overcome his size as a freshman, admitting that he was not the biggest or the fastest player, Mannix quickly learned to compensate for what might be considered a physical disadvantage, with his smarts. Surprisingly enough, though his role as a young quarterback was not one he ever planned on reliving as a Crusader, it served to be incredibly helpful for him as a defensive player. "My experience gives me a good feel for what the offense is trying to do in different situations, and allows me to put myself in a position to make plays by thinking how a quarterback would think," said Mannix.

Additionally, his quarterback days immensely assist in his current role as team captain. "Naturally the quarterback is the leader of the team, so playing this position all my life helped me develop my leadership skills in ways like getting my teammates on the same page," stated Mannix. Similar responsibilities Mannix faces as a team captain include keeping everyone focused and motivated to work hard, especially when times get tough. As someone who is usually quite quiet, taking on a leadership role that involves being very vocal was not something the freshman version of Mannix could have easily done. Adapting to the coaching points of head coach Tom Gilmore however, and improving this component of his game throughout his first three years, enabled him to become not only suitable, but an ideal candidate for the position of team captain his senior year.

As one would suspect, Mannix also made substantial improvements in his performance on the field. Though talented enough as a freshman to play in all 12 games on special teams and as a reserve defensive back, it was in his sophomore and junior years that Mannix really flourished as a player. He played in all 11 games and started in three his sophomore year, recording a team-best six pass breakups, one interception and one forced fumble in addition to finishing the season ranked sixth in the Patriot League in passes defended and 49th in total tackles. Last year as a junior, Mannix had his best season yet, starting in all 11 games at strong safety. At the end of the season he ranked 20th in the nation for solo tackles, 28th in forced fumbles and 34th in passes defended. Mannix earned recognition in the conference as well by being named second team All-Patriot League and placing second in the league in forced fumbles, fourth in passes defended and eighth in total tackles.

Four years after making the life-changing decision to become a Crusader, Mannix looks back on the thousands of hours and hundreds of days he invested into the football program and reflects on how he has grown since strapping on a purple helmet for the first time as a freshman in 2009. "My football career at Holy Cross has definitely taught me to trust my instincts and not be afraid to make mistakes, because they're going to happen. It is how you respond to the mistakes and the adversity that determines how successful you will be," asserted Mannix.

With this mentality, Mannix prepares to close out his senior year at Holy Cross and proceed to the next chapter in his life. Though still unsure what path he will take after graduation, Mannix expresses his desires to remain involved in sports in some way because they have been such a significant aspect in his life thus far. While his dream job remains becoming an NFL coach for his favorite team, the New York Jets, his stellar academic performance, making two appearances on the Patriot League Academic Honor Roll, assures that Mannix will go on to be successful where ever his life takes him. With the last few games of his career approaching, Mannix states, "I'll definitely miss the bonds I've formed with my teammates the most. After all the fun times we've had these past four years, it will be hard not to be together."

Based on his past and current performance on the football field, Mannix utilizes his profound knowledge of the game and prevailing leadership skills to prove success in the sport of football incorporates much more than size. Through his incredible heart, passion, determination and character, Mannix has become an outstanding all-around player.

This story originally appeared in the October 27 edition of the Holy Cross Game Day Program, for the contest between the Crusaders and Fordham. To order a copy of the program, click here.