GREEN BAY, Wis. – The University of Georgia set an NFL record by producing 15 players in the 2022 NFL Draft.
Chauncey Manac isn’t part of the accounting.
Before signing with the Green Bay Packers as an undrafted free agent, Manac was a four-star prospect who chose to play for Georgia. He redshirted in 2016, then transferred to Garden City Community College for the 2017 season. After a year there, he landed at Louisiana, where he spent the next four seasons. He led the Ragin Cajuns in tackles for losses in 2018 and again in 2021. He was second-team all-Sun Belt as a super-senior with 10.5 sacks and 14.5 tackles for losses among his 57 tackles.
“If you would have told me three or four years ago that I have a chance to go to the league, I would have laughed,” he told The Adverstiser. “It’s crazy.”
Crazy, because this outcome wasn’t a certainty a year ago. Between the 2020 and 2021 seasons, Manac chose to have surgery to repair a herniated disc in his back.
“It was a hard decision,” Manac said, “but I felt like I had to get it done. I was worried, nervous, because going into something like that you don’t know what the outcome is going to be.”
The outcome was quite good. According to Pro Football Focus, Manac finished 58th among the 2022 edge rusher class with 40 pressures. That’s only two fewer than the hyped Big Ten tandem of David Ojabo and Boye Mafe, and more than Day 2 draft picks Josh Paschal and DeAngelo Malone. Of 112 edge defenders with at least 275 snaps as a pass rusher, Manc ranked 15th in PFF’s pass-rushing productivity, which measures sacks, hits and hurries per pass-rushing snap.
Manac’s path to the draft doesn’t just start at Georgia or Louisiana, or at the office of the Dallas surgeon who fixed Manac’s back. It started back home in Homerville, Ga. That’s where, for the most part, he was raised by his grandparents and an aunt.
“Her and my grandmother are really like my mothers,” Manac told Dawg Nation in 2016 in recounting his amazing story. “Grandma, she doesn’t put up with nothing. Go to church every Sunday and Wednesday. My aunt, she just understands me. She’s pretty laid back. She’s just the sweetest thing ever.”
He started playing football in eighth grade because he was “husky.” By his freshman year at Clinch County High School, he started getting college offers.
There is an obvious path to the roster in Green Bay, with only Preston Smith and Rashan Gary as sure things. Jonathan Garvin, Tipa Galeai and LaDarius Hamilton didn’t produce enough off the bench last season, Randy Ramsey missed 2021 with an ankle injury and the only draft investment was on fifth-round pick Kingsley Enagbare.
Garvin, Galeai, Hamilton and Chauncey Rivers (not with the team) combined to play 665 snaps last season. That’s only 16 fewer than Gary. They combined for 34 pressures – 47 fewer than Gary. So, Manac might be able to pressure the Packers into keeping him on the roster – don’t pardon the pun.
“Chauncey has grown so much as a human, as a competitor and just as a person,” Cajuns coach Michael Desormeaux said at pro day, where the 6-foot-3, 246-pound Manac ran his 40 in 4.67 seconds. “Chauncey’s first year, Chauncey did not like to practice. You watched him and you’ve seen him develop and evolve. The last two years, my guys (tight ends) lined up across him every single day and you just saw him grow and get better and work and compete.”