Manning Aims High

Danieal Manning had his meet and greet with the Chicago media on Monday. While he appears to be humble, there's enough defensive back in him to be confident he can compete for a starting job as a rookie.

"I believe so," Manning said. "Deep down inside I really know I could. I have no doubt about that."

With Lovie Smith as head coach, the Bears have not hesitated to go with youth over experience. Chris Harris, who Manning will compete with, took over the free safety duties from Mike Green in the second game of his rookie season.

The biggest asset Manning brings to the Bears is his versatility. He can play cornerback and safety as well as be a return specialist.

"I'm willing to contribute any way that I can to this organization, to this football program," Manning said. "If that's special teams, running down on coverage, returning punts and kickoffs and just playing safety or corner. I feel like I've been trained. I have experience at all those positions in college and feel like I can do it here at the next level."

In order to have a legitimate shot at starting, Manning knows he'll have to be in training camp on time.

"I just love to play the game," Manning said. "Playing it, I never have for money or none of that, so that has never bothered me. So I just want to get in and play ball and leave that up to my agent. Just let me play."

Manning has had an unusual journey to get to the NFL. He originally signed a letter of intent with Nebraska, but failed to have the necessary SAT score to gain admittance. He worked briefly for a newspaper in Lincoln before deciding to go to Abilene Christian.

After sitting out the year at Nebraska, Manning missed another year because of NCAA transfer rules. Despite the detour, he never gave up on his NFL dream.

"That day my dad told me come on back home, this is not where you need to be, I never thought about that," Manning said when he left Nebraska for Abilene Christian. " I was like, well, OK, I've got to find another way."

Manning dominated the competition on the Division II level. He picked off 11 passes in three seasons, while scoring six times in the return game. Things will get tougher at the next level, but Manning feels like he's carrying the torch for other small school players.

"I have a little pressure trying to prove that Division II has some quality players," Manning said. "It just happens that people fall through the cracks or choose different paths, but it doesn't mean that they're not a great football player. I'm just glad to be a frontrunner on that."

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