After being unsigned by the Dallas Cowboys and Kansas City Chiefs after their NFL rookie mini-camps, former Belleville West and Northwest Missouri State cornerback Travis Manning found a home with the Green Bay Packers.
Manning signed with the Packers on Thursday as an undrafted free agent after performing well enough during a tryout to earn a longer look from Green Bay General Manager Ted Thompson.
“Right after I finished up with Kansas City, Green Bay contacted me and said they wanted to get me up here for a workout,” Manning said Friday by phone from Green Bay. “It was tough. You just really have to be optimistic and keep working, keep chiseling away. My agent (Belleville West grad Joseph Clayborne) kept beating it into my head a that if this team doesn’t work out, I’ve got another one lined up.
“It finally happened and thank God it did.”
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Manning will be back home in the metro-east this week before heading back to Green Bay next Tuesday for their OTAs (organized team activities) sessions.
“They told me to enjoy my time with the family and come back ready to work,” said Manning, whose combination of speed and strength, ability to cover receivers and play on special teams could all work in his favor.
When Manning walked into the Packers locker room, things got interesting in a hurry.
He saw another former metro-east product in former Cahokia High and Missouri wide receiver Jimmie Hunt, whom he competed against in track back in high school. Hunt also was signed by the Packers as an undrafted free agent.
“It was nice to see a familiar face,” Manning said. “You walk in the locker room and see Aaron Rodgers and Clay Matthews, then you see a familiar face like Jimmie Hunt and I was like ‘OK.’’’
Rodgers was familiar too, thanks to helping the Packers win a Super Bowl and those television commercials.
“It was almost kind of crazy to see him in the locker room, to think that’s your teammate,” Manning said. “You watched him win a Super Bowl and now you’re a part of the team.”
Manning (5-foot-11, 196 pounds) earned second-team All-Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association (MIAA) honors last season when he had 32 tackles, 10 pass break-ups, two forced fumbles and an interception returned for a touchdown.
He had 10 career interceptions at Northwest Missouri State.
In 2013 Manning was a key contributor when Northwest Missouri State won the NCAA Division II national championship. He also ran track at Northwest for two seasons, in 2010 and 2011.
Manning said it was tough to stand out, especially at the Chiefs’ mini-camp.
“At the rookie mini-camps they brought in so many guys and only had so many spots, so the ratio wasn’t there,” he said. “Especially playing corner, the last two days there they didn’t even throw to my side. Unless you really stand out somehow they’re not going to recognize you.”
Fortunately for Manning, he got another shot with the Packers and excelled in his workout session.
“It was more personalized when I came here,” he said. “There were only four of us (cornerbacks) working out and we did a lot of individual workouts. All my numbers were better than at my pro day and my individual drills went well.
“Before you know it I was a Green Bay Packer. It’s almost like it hasn’t even hit me yet. It’s nice to be signed, but there’s a lot of work to be done. My goal is to ultimately make that 53-man roster and I’m already behind because the other guys know more of the playbook. I’ve got a lot of work to do.”