Last year, Deontay McManus was one of the most highly coveted recruits in the nation. At 6-foot-2, 215-pounds with 4.5 speed, McManus had the measureables to be a premier outside wide receiver for schools such as Alabama, Michigan and Ohio State.
He eventually settled on West Virginia because of its vaunted, high-scoring offense and the opportunity to play the position he loved.
"I'm an outside receiver," he said. "That's where I can make plays."
His stats as a senior at Dunbar (MD) were anything but gaudy- he caught 40 passes for 590 yards- but he spent the majority of the year helping his team on the defensive side of the ball.
McManus was considered by many as a possible outside linebacker, safety or running back but the 4-star prospect felt destined to be one of the top wide outs in the Big 12.
Unfortunately, his dream never came into fruition. McManus was ruled as an NCAA non-qualifier and soon found himself without a home. The JUCO route was a popular option, but McManus decided to take his talents to Atlanta Sports Academy, a prep school dedicated to helping student-athletes qualify.
It was there where he met Deion Sanders Jr., who despite being named an Under Armour All-American, had no options when signing day rolled around. The pair instantly bonded and became close friends.
"Ever since I met Deion, he's been like a brother to me," McManus said. "He's been there for me and is such a great athlete and tremendous person. We decided that we wanted to play at the next level together."
In mid-November, McManus and Sanders Jr. as well as fellow teammate Eric Jenkins visited SMU and watched the Mustangs practice. While on the Hilltop, both McManus and Sanders Jr. picked up offers.
"When I visited the campus with Deion, I really enjoyed it," McManus said. "I didn't really know a lot about SMU, but the campus was so beautiful. The practice was great. It was in the morning, which I like, and pretty laid back.
"There was a lot of teaching involved especially with the receivers. They went over a lot of plays and really focused on route running. I'm a pretty laid back person myself so I thought SMU would be a good fit for me."
A week later, Sanders Jr. pulled the trigger and committed to SMU but McManus still wanted to weigh his options. After all, quite a few BCS schools were still showing interest at the time.
But it's now January and McManus knows he will have to make a decision soon and SMU is right at the top of his list.
"I'm still very interested in SMU especially since Deion is there," McManus said. "It's probably 9 out of 10 that I will commit to SMU. I think they are my favorite right now. "
Teaming up with Sanders Jr. would be ideal, but there is just one thing holding McManus back from becoming a Mustang- his ACT score. McManus recently took the exam and is just waiting to get his score back.
McManus says he's confident his score will be good enough to get into SMU and if it is, he will have four years to play four seasons. With his talent and physique, McManus has a chance to do something truly special at SMU and start from Day 1.
"I really like that SMU runs the spread offense. I saw they weren't throwing the ball to well this past season," McManus said. "But I think me and Deion can definitely fix that. This year, I really improved on my route running and got bigger and faster so I truly believe I can make a big impact as an outside wide receiver while Deion tears it up in the slot."
A dynamic duo of that natures is exactly what the Ponies need to spark a rather humdrum Run N' Shoot offense. McManus has been keeping close contact with SMU wide receivers coach Jason Phillips and hopes to take an official visit soon.
"Coach Phillips has been keeping in contact. He's kind of like a father figure. He's a good guy, and I just want to get to know him a little better," McManus said. "I'm trying to plan a visit with him soon. It might even be next weekend because I really want to see the campus again.
"I saw SMU play for the first time in the Hawaii Bowl and they definitely put on a show so that got me pretty excited. I feel like SMU is a place where they are going to help me grow both on and off the field and of course, I'll have Deion by my side."
Like Sanders Jr., McManus would enroll this spring if he were in fact to commit to SMU and would not count against the 25 fall limit. Georgia is the only other school McManus is considering, but it's obvious SMU is the clear-cut favorite.
"Once I get my score back, I'll make a decision," he said. "Is it going to be SMU? Probably."
4-Star WIde Receiver Considering SMU
Pony Stampede Top Stories
Game Preview: SMU vs. TempleScott previews SMU's road matchup against Temple to open AAC play on Saturday on ESPNews.
Pony StampedeYesterday at 9:35 AM
Five Players to Watch: SMU vs. TempleDemo breaks down five players to watch for SMU against Temple on Saturday.
Pony StampedeWednesday at 2:24 PM
Pony Stampede Podcast Sept. 28Come inside another edition of the Pony Stampede Podcast for the latest on the SMU hoops team and a TCU game breakdown.
Pony StampedeTuesday at 10:59 PM
2018 offensive lineman has SMU near the topBilly talked with 2018 Highland Park (Tex.) offensive lineman Thomas Shelmire about his recent SMU visit and recruitment.
Pony StampedeTuesday at 9:00 AM
FREE Pony Stampede Hilltop Review: Sept. 23Come inside this free edition of the Pony Stampede Hilltop Review with the latest on SMU commits and visitors from last week's win over Liberty.