Special Issue: Sneak Preview

Get a feel for our special double issue on Penn State's 1986 national title team with this Tim Manoa feature. This magazine is available as part of our annual TAP and magazine-only packages. If you are on a monthly plan or are not a premium member, you must subscribe by midnight Friday to receive this issue.

The following story is offered as a sneak preview of the content in our upcoming special double issue commemorating Penn State's 1986 national championship football season.

This is by far our biggest issue ever — 84 pages, bound and full color. And every single piece of content is dedicated to the magical 1986 season.

The issue includes never-before-seen, behind the scenes images from Penn State's 1987 Fiesta Bowl victory over Miami, complete recaps of the 1986 regular season and the bowl game, updates on every Penn State starter and coach from the Fiesta Bowl and much, much more.

Current Fight On State Annual Total Access Pass subscribers and magazine-only subscribers will receive this issue as part of their subscriptions, so long as their subs do not run out before Jan. 15.

If you are a on a monthly TAP plan, you must upgrade to an annual TAP before midnight Friday to make sure you receive this issue. Likewise, if you are not an FOS premium member at all, you must subscribe to an annual plan by Friday to receive this issue.

You can do so by visiting our online store (Order Securely Online) or by calling our customer service center at 888.501.5752.

Use the special promotional code GoLions06 and you will receive a free book on Penn State's 2005 Big Ten title team along with your order.

Meanwhile, it's time to catch up with 1986 standout fullback Tim Manoa.

HEADLINE: The Fast Life

SUBHEAD: Known primarily as a bruising fullback during his days on the gridiron, Tim Manoa has taken an interesting — and speedy — turn

START STORY: There's an old saying among football analysts, one that's been around since Keith Jackson was knee-high to a grasshopper. “You can't teach speed,” they've often said after some fleet-footed tailback broke through the line and raced 80 yards for a score on a game-changing play.

Well, Tim Manoa disagrees. Manoa, you see, is the former Penn State and Cleveland Browns fullback who now operates the Tim Manoa Sports Performance Clinics. His business is based in the Cleveland area, but the clinics are held around the country.

“Back in the day, if you ran fast, you ran fast,” Manoa explained. “And if you ran slow, you ran slow. But that's not the case anymore. You can actually teach speed. Back then, everyone thought you couldn't teach speed. But you can do it now.”

The irony, of course, is that while Manoa was fast for a fullback while at Penn State (he rushed for 546 yards as a senior and averaged 5.6 yard per carry), the lasting memory of him among the Nittany Nation is of a bruising blocker who cleared holes for D.J. Dozier.

“I wish I had this kind of training when I was playing,” Manoa said. “But I still had a little speed.”

Through his clinics, Manoa works with kids 10 years old and up. The idea is to teach proper technique before they develop bad habits.

“As I learn more about speed training, now I can sit and critique a kid on how he runs,” Manoa said. “You can tell most don't know how to run. Most of it is tweaking a few techniques with hand and foot movement. It's amazing the difference it makes.

“That's what speed is all about,” he added. “You've got to train fast to run fast. Most of it is muscle memory. If you train your muscles to run fast, you run fast. If you train your muscles to run slow, you run slow.”

Manoa didn't enjoy such specialized guidance growing up. He was born in Tonga in September 1964. In 1970 his family moved to Hawaii. He stayed there until he was 16, when his father insisted Tim move to the Pittsburgh area for educational purposes. Though he didn't want to do it, Tim packed his bags and left, living with another family while attending North Allegheny High.

It just so happened that North Allegheny was a football powerhouse. With a good combination of size (220 pounds) and speed, Manoa fit right in. After only two seasons at the school, he won Parade All-America honors and earned a football scholarship to Penn State.

He spent his career in Happy Valley sharing the fullback position with Steve Smith, and they developed into the standard by which all Nittany Lion fullback tandems are measured. Manoa was at his best in the 1987 Fiesta Bowl win over Miami, when he gained 36 yards and a touchdown on eight carries and caught a 12-yard pass to set up Penn State's first touchdown.

“But I fumbled the ball a couple of times in that game, too,” he recalled.

In an amazing twist of fate, Manoa and Smith were taken on consecutive picks in the third round of the 1987 NFL Draft, the former going to Cleveland and the latter to the Los Angeles Raiders. Manoa was especially proud that he was only the second Tongan to make it to the NFL, following BYU's Vai Sikahema by one year.

“Now every time I turn on the TV, I see a Tongan kid in the NFL,” he said. “There are kids coming out of Tonga every year. They probably have 40 or 50 kids a year going to Division I schools. I think there are about 10 Tongan kids in the NFL right now. It's amazing.”

Manoa had a solid if not spectacular NFL career, gaining nearly 1,000 rushing yards, more than 300 receiving yards and scoring a total of eight touchdowns in five seasons before retiring.

“I played in Cleveland for four years, then I went to Indianapolis for a year,” Manoa said. Once his pro career ended, he went back to Cleveland. “I was going to try to sell my home and move back to Hawaii. But then I met my wife here, and that's all she wrote.”

Manoa took a few years off from work. Then he started spending time at a cousin's gym in the area and enjoyed it so much he began working as a personal trainer. That slowly but surely evolved into his role as a speed coach, and he began the clinics three years ago.

“I never really had a 9-to-5 job, because I don't know if I can work a 9-to-5 job,” he said with a laugh.

Also, for the past 12 years, he has been running a football camp in the Cleveland area. Wonder how good he is at teaching kids? At the time of this writing, his 11-year-old daughter, Alexis, was ranked third in the nation in her age group in the NFL's Punt Pass and Kick competition.

Manoa and wife Jill also have a second daughter, Morgan, who was 9 at the time of this writing. Since his high school and college days, his parents have relocated from Hawaii to San Francisco, and he has the chance to see them a few times a year.

As for his connections to Penn State, he is still tight with his college roommate, quarterback Matt Knizner, who is working as an insurance agent in his hometown of Greensburg, Pa. “We talk often,” Manoa said.

Like everyone else on the great 1986 team, he can't believe how quickly the time has melted away.

“Twenty years, man,” he said. “Geez.”

Manoa chuckles when he thinks of his career goals back then.

“I thought I was gonna eventually be back in Hawaii and be a beach bum,” he said. “But here I am, stuck in the snow.”

And, in his own unique way, living the fast life.

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