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ASU football's Manny Wilkins is always trying to grow as a leader

Wilkins is ready to take ASU football to new heights next fall


ASU redshirt junior quarterback Manny Wilkins (5) looks for room to run during the second half of ASU's 44-37 loss to UCLA on Saturday, Nov. 11, 2017 at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California.

Redshirt senior quarterback Manny Wilkins was known for a lot of things in the 2017 ASU football season. 

Starting with a quarterback competition in summer camp, Wilkins was the word of the day every day for Sun Devil football fans last fall.

However, that experience was the catalyst for making Wilkins an ever-evolving leader for ASU football, at least in his opinion. 

“Before the season last year, when I had so much going on and I was the starter the year before, but then you’re in another quarterback battle," Wilkins said. "It tested my integrity as a person. That was the moment where I shut everything out. I put the blinders on, and I just moved forward. That was where I really started to click as the leader of this football team in my eyes.”

Nonetheless, junior wide receiver N’Keal Harry disagrees with Wilkins, who was the quarterback before he arrived at ASU and is now his roommate. To Harry, Wilkins has always been the leader of the team.

“Manny had that role last year,” Harry said. “He’s really had that role since I got here, so it’s nothing new for him, and it’s something I need to work on. I definitely take feedback from him on what I need to do and what I should do.”

Wilkins and Harry have been a successful combination, with Harry amassing 1,142 receiving yards and eight touchdowns last season. 

As a leader, Wilkins takes it upon himself to create more leaders, and while that includes Harry, it is not limited to him.

“I’m trying to be alpha male really,” Wilkins said. “I have the trade, (and) I have the capability to do it. It’s always been just trying to bring other guys and have them lead as well and creating more leaders on the field instead of there just being a couple guys that are leading. Everybody has a leader in them. It’s just bringing it out of them.”

This is more important than ever going into the season as ASU is still getting used to head coach Herm Edwards.

“I do feel that we all are just meshing well,” Wilkins said. “There’s no bickering. There's no crying … As long as we’re all on the same page, it creates this okay for the coaches to come in and just do something without backlash. It’s hard sometimes for a new staff, especially if they haven’t earned our respect or anything yet, to take over a team. I don’t think it was like that here."

For Wilkins, his journey as a leader is far from over as the redshirt senior approaches his final year in the program. It is especially important now as Edwards wants him to embrace the role even more. 

“I think it was new to Manny,” Edwards said. “I’m having a conversation with him every day. There’s about five or six other guys that I see in practice every day. There’s words of leadership that revolve between us and what I expect because we’re still trying to build that.”

Beyond that, the quarterback wants to build himself as a leader who is constantly learning on and off the field. 

“I my mind, as a human, there is never a moment where we stop learning as people,” Wilkins said. “I don’t know everything. I don’t think that I know everything, and when you realize that you don’t know everything is when you as a leader, or a somebody who is a learner, can help continue to build and take other people when you build.”

For now, as spring practices are over, the ASU football team heads into the offseason, and for Wilkins, the plan is set. 

“I want to be great,” Wilkins said. “I want this university to thrive this season with this football season, so I’m going to put my all into it. I expect nothing less than perfect. That’s what I want for this team, and that’s what I’m trying to do.”

Reach the reporter at or follow @paige_burnell on Twitter.   

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