North Penn's Brandon McManus

While many scholastic football players look up to NFL stars like running back Reggie Bush or linebacker Shawne Merriman, Brandon McManus is a little different.

But that's to be expected, because the 6-foot-2, 170-pound Brandon McManus is a kicker. And his favorite NFL player is David Akers. McManus was among the top performers at the Pittsburgh Specialists Camp Thursday.

"I like Pitt a lot,'' McManus said. "The facilities are great, and my dad wants me to come here. My sister goes to school out this way, too, at Slippery Rock. So, hopefully, I'll get an offer after this camp. I know they'll need a punter after this season. I can kick and punt, so I that's only one scholarship.''

McManus, a senior for Coach Dick Beck at North Penn High School in Lansdale, Pa. this fall, hasn't had any scholarship offers, but he's been to camps at Penn State, Villanova and Pitt with Michigan and Northwestern on the horizon.

"I met some of the other guys at other camps, and I'm glad to see them again at Pitt,'' McManus said. "I'm having a pretty good time here. There's a lot of good competition, and I enjoy competing against these guys. They're all good kickers, and I think we all got a good workout.''

The kickers attempted field goals and kickoffs in the morning session, while the punting was in the afternoon. Members of Pitt's staff worked with several dozen kickers, but Jamie Kohl from Kohl's Professional Kicking Camps also provided tips on technique for each player.

"Brandon has unbelievable leg speed,'' Kohl said. "He's a big guy, and he can really boom the ball. His kickoffs consistently were inside the 5-yard line, and his hang time was about 3.9 seconds (on kickoffs).''

McManus said that he has talked with Kohl on-line several times before meeting him at the Pitt camp and believed that he already has shown improvement. The North Penn Knights, who were 9-3 in 2007, should warn their competition this year if that's the case because McManus had quite a junior season.

In a game against Pennridge, McManus blasted a 55-yard field goal. "When I kicked it, I actually thought it was short,'' McManus said after the game. "When I saw they called it good, I was shocked actually. (And) I'm still shocked, (but) It was great.''

The kick set a school and league record by one yard. Neshaminy's Kevin Kelly set the previous mark in 2001. That's two yards less than Akers' best with the Philadelphia Eagles. McManus says he kicked a 61-yard field goal in practice, and that's why Beck didn't send McManus out to punt instead.

"I thought about it on third down that we were definitely going to try the field goal if we didn't get the yards,'' Beck said afterward. "I had a lot of confidence (that) he was going to make it. The referee told me it would have been good from 58.''

McManus says he's added about 10 yards to his kickoffs since changing his steps last year, and with a growth spurt of four inches the past year, as well as weight training, he's gotten a lot stronger.

McManus had 28 touchbacks in 2007. He was 6-for-11 in field goals after going 4-for-7 as a sophomore. Along with the 55-yarder, McManus made kicks from 25, 30, 32, 42 and 47 yards and averaged 39.2 yards per punt, 38.1 net with a long kick of 63 yards.

And if McManus continues to improve, more records could fall and a scholarship offer should follow as well.

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