"People get to watch him on Saturday, but the best part for me is Monday through Friday."
Gwaltney, along with half-brother Scooter Berry, are also dedicated weight room participants. Each has added size and strength since the end of last season, and are chomping at the bit to do more.
"I talked with both of them as they were getting ready to come back home from their visit to West Virginia, and Jason told me to be ready in the morning, because they were pumped up to work out," Manning recounted with a satisfied laugh. "That shows you the kind of dedication they have."
That wasn't the only topic of conversation on the phone, however. Before each player made their verbal commitments to West Virginia, they called their head coach to tell them what they were planning. That simple act speaks to the relationship that Manning has with his star backfield performers.
"I talked with them both, and they both told me they loved it there. They were just off the hook about West Virginia and the staff. My main concern was that West Virginia would take care of them no matter what happened, and I feel comfortable that they will. Jason was sky high. He wanted this from the get go, and has been leaning toward WVU for a long time. It's a nice fit for both of them. They have paid their dues."
"Coach Hand did a great job recruiting him, and Coach Magee hit it off with both of them too. Coach Hand was the first guy to contact him on the first day he was allowed. Every time he could be in the school to visit, he was. Coach Hand did a great job gaining Jason's respect and trust. And once you do that, he's very loyal.
"Even though all these other schools will be coming in and making good pitches now, this is as solid as it can be. Jason and Scooter and Coach Hand really hit it off. If he could have committed last year, he probably would have done it. With Calvin and Coach Rodriquez, that sealed it."
Although his size would seem to slot him as a power back, Manning says that Gwaltney has the speed to get around defenders as well.
"He is the Suffolk count 110 meter high hurdles champ, so that tells you something about his athletic ability," Manning said. "We run the ball 98% of the time. He gets the ball 30 times a game, everybody knows it. People know it's coiming and they can't stop it He can run you over, but run around you too."
Manning is also impressed with Scooter Berry, who has toiled in the long shadow cast by his half-brother without complaint.
"I have always told Scooter that if he were at another high school, he'd be the feature tailback. But since he's here, I told him he'd have to chop his wood another way, and that's through blocking and on defense. I told him he'd get a few touches, but that he would block a lot. That might be tough for a lot of guys to hear, but Scooter has handled it well. To have your half-brother getting all the attention, you have to be unselfish, and he is.
"One of the great things I remember is Jason's reaction when Scooter got a score. He went in, and I looked over, and Jason is just jumping up and down. He was so excited for him - more excited than when he scores himself."
Manning has to be pinching himself to have such a pair in his backfield for one more season, and knows he has been lucky.
"My first year as a head coach, I had Rashaan Vanterpool, and after he left I thoguht, 'Wow, I might never have a player that good again. Then I had Barry Baker, who went to Syracuse, and I thought that again. But now, with Jason, he's the best I've ever had or seen. It's been so much fun to have them, and we are proud of them. They are good kids."
Manning noted that a number of factors went into Berry and Gwaltney's choice of West Virginia. While the relationship that Herb Hand and the Mountaineer staff built topped that list, WVU's primetime TV performances played a part as well.
"We get a number of WVU games up here, but being a coach I don't get to watch a whole lot," Manning said. "I'd be working, and he'd call me during games and say 'WVU's on, are you watching? Did you see that?' I think he had West Virginia picked out for a long time."