Work hard. Play hard.
That's been the story of Roy Manning's offseason as the linebacker prepares for his second year in the NFL.
Before reporting for the Packers' offseason workout program on March 20, Manning stayed in his hometown of Saginaw, Mich. The burly 245-pound linebacker who lists weightlifting as one of his favorite hobbies focused on becoming more powerful.
"I don't know if I necessarily got too much bigger," Manning said. "I'm definitely stronger and feel a lot better."
To become more explosive, Manning performed squats, leg press and lunges at the Potential Energy gym in Saginaw. Strengthening his hamstrings and trunk also should take pressure off his back. Last year he suffered a back injury during preseason practices, which bothered him the rest of the season and caused him to miss Week 4.
The back injury, however, did not prevent him from making an auspicious debut. Although undrafted rookie free agents are lucky just to make the practice squad, the former Michigan player not only landed a roster spot but also started two of the 15 games he played. His versatility impressed the coaching staff as he collected 20 tackles while playing both outside linebacker positions.
During the offseason Manning maintained the work ethic, which allowed him to rise from a player who did not receive an invite to the NFL Scouting Combine to an integral part of the Packers defense and special teams. He worked out every weekday morning. On Monday and Wednesday, he strengthened his upper body while emphasizing his lower body and conditioning on Tuesday, Thursday and Friday.
Manning's offseason was not all sweat and toil. With Super Bowl XL at Ford Field and 100 miles away from his hometown, he attended the week's festivities. The highlight was meeting and greeting other NFL players at the NFL Players party. He enjoyed reacquainting with his former Michigan teammates and talking to two illustrious players who occupy his position -- Ray Lewis and Willie McGinest. Their advice?
"(They) just told me to keep working," Manning said. "They were real nice guys. So that was a great opportunity for me."
Manning also mixed with a set of superstars from a different sport. In February he attended the NBA's All-Star weekend in Houston.
"I just had a ball," he said.
Manning stayed at Houston Texans linebacker and former college teammate Shantee Orr's home. Orr, who played with the Packers during training camp of 2003, recommended Manning join the Packers as an undrafted free agent last year.
Manning enjoyed watching the Slam Dunk contest but said Philadelphia 76ers small forward Andre Igudoala was more deserving than the eventual winner, New York Knicks point guard Nate Robinson.
"(Iguodala) pulled one dunk out of his pocket that was just unreal," Manning said. "But then again the other guy's like 5'8."
He also met the other A.I, the 76ers' Allen Iverson. But the most memorable moment occurred when he saw an even more celebrated basketball star at a Houston night spot.
"Michael Jordan walked at arm's distance away from me," Manning said. "I just froze up. I don't know what happened."
If Manning continues his hard work, others soon may stop in their tracks upon seeing him.