NA native Manzo-Lewis signs with LA Chargers

For Anthony Manzo-Lewis, his football life has now taken him from NA to LA.

Well, with a stop in Albany, of course.

Last week, as the National Football League Draft was taking place, Manzo-Lewis, the North Arlington resident, was watching the proceedings with family and friends, hoping to hear his name called.

“One of the soccer coaches (from the University of Albany, where Manzo-Lewis played college football) texted me and told me to hang in there,” Manzo-Lewis said.

But in reality, the NFL Draft is reserved for stud quarterbacks, hard-rushing defensive linemen and speedy wide receivers. Teams just don’t take chances on burly blocking specialists like H-backs and fullbacks in the draft.

Even after working out for a handful of teams and getting positive feedback every step along the way, Manzo-Lewis knew that his chances of  hearing his name called during the recent draft were close to slim and none.

Still, Manzo-Lewis was poised and ready if someone wanted to take a flier on him. Apparently, 10 different NFL teams expressed some pre-draft interest in securing the services of the former St. Joseph (Montvale) standout who carved his niche as a blocking fullback/tight end/H-Back at Albany the last three years.

“I had no idea what to expect,” Manzo-Lewis said. “My agent (Tyrone Barnes) told me to expect a call.”

Sure enough, soon after the NFL Draft was completed and Manzo-Lewis was not selected, he received a call from James MacPherson, the area scout for the Los Angeles Chargers.

“He said that the Chargers wanted me to play fullback,” Manzo-Lewis said. “When he called, I didn’t answer the phone right away. I didn’t know what was happening.”

Manzo-Lewis was signed to a free agent contract by the Chargers and will head to Los Angeles this week to begin rookie training camp with the team’s seven draft picks and the other free agents that inked deals with the club.

Manzo-Lewis’ contract includes an invitation to training camp with the team in July. For now, he’s a professional football player in the NFL.

“It was always a dream growing up as a kid,” Manzo-Lewis said. “When I was in high school, it was more of a dream. But now, it’s become reality. Now, it’s crazy.”

Manzo-Lewis first headed to Albany as a defensive end.

“But the coaches then said that they would love to switch me to play tight end/H-back,” Manzo-Lewis said. “After my freshman year, I loved playing offense.”

Manzo-Lewis, whose younger brother Michael was a standout quarterback/defensive back at North Arlington High School a few years ago who went on to play wide receiver at East Stroudsburg, then later at Montclair State, was able to morph into a fullback/H-back, concentrating on his ability to run and block.

“I played all three (namely fullback, H-back and tight end,” Manzo-Lewis said. “I played a lot on the line, but there were times I was in the slot or in the backfield. It didn’t matter to me.”

Manzo-Lewis had a good career at Albany, but his ability to block stood out. He is now listed at 6-feet tall and 257 pounds, a far cry from his stature when he was in high school.

“When I went to high school, I was 185 pounds,” Manzo-Lewis said. “I played last season at Albany at 255, but the NFL is just a little tougher.”

Manzo-Lewis won’t know what the Chargers’ plans are until he arrives for rookie mini-camp Thursday.

“I guess I’ll be mainly at fullback, but I will also have to play special teams,” Manzo-Lewis said. “I’m used to that. I can handle anything.”

It’s not every day that a kid from North Arlington gets a chance to show his stuff in the NFL.

“It’s a big thing, especially since my uncles all live in town,” Manzo-Lewis said. “My Dad is a big North Arlington guy. It’s good to know that everyone in North Arlington is behind me.”

The Chargers have only one other fullback on their roster, namely third-year player Derek Watt, the younger brother of Houston Texans’ All-Pro defensive end J.J. Watt and older brother of Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker T.J. Watt, so it appears as if Manzo-Lewis has some work cut out for him if he plans on making the Chargers’ final roster come September.

But for now, Manzo-Lewis is a member of the Los Angeles Chargers. He’s already listed on their 2018 roster and has been assigned uniform No. 40 by the Chargers. It all becomes real this week for Manzo-Lewis when he arrives in Los Angeles to start workouts and begin his professional career.

“It’s all new to me,” Manzo-Lewis said. “I’ve never been west of Pennsylvania. I’ve had a lot of friends and family texting me and calling me. It’s all so unbelievable for me. Maybe it will hit me more when I get out there.”

Manzo-Lewis credits St. Joseph (Montvale) head coach Augie Hoffman for giving him the opportunity to play pro football. Hoffman pushed Manzo-Lewis to attend scouting combines prior to the draft.

So it’s basically been from NA to LA for Manzo-Lewis.

“I should be able to handle it,” Manzo-Lewis said. “It might take a couple of days, but I’ll get used to it.”

Rookie camp will continue through the rest of the week. Manzo-Lewis will remain in Los Angeles until mid-June and then will return for training camp in July.

He is scheduled to graduate with his class at the University of Albany. He was taking classes right up until he is scheduled to leave for rookie camp.

“This is all too crazy,” Manzo-Lewis said. “I still can’t believe it. I think it might take me a few weeks to realize what has happened. My phone has been blowing up like crazy. It has been a hectic couple of days for me. I had to go buy a suit. I didn’t own one. I needed one now.”

Before he hung up the phone after the interview was over, Manzo-Lewis was asked if he could grasp the idea that a kid from North Arlington is actually getting a chance to play in the National Football League.

“I still can’t realize that I’m now a member of the Los Angeles Chargers,” Manzo-Lewis said. “It’s really a dream come true.”




North Arlington’s Anthony Manzo-Lewis, shown here playing for the University of Albany last fall, has signed a free agent contract with the Los Angeles Chargers and will begin rookie training camp Friday in California. Photo courtesy of the University of Albany sports information department



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Jim Hague | Observer Sports Writer

Sports Writer Jim Hague was with The Observer for 20+ years — and his name is one of the most recognizable in all of sports journalism. The St. Peter’s Prep and Marquette alum kicked off his journalism career post Marquette at the Daily Record, where he remained until 1985. Following shorts stints at two other newspapers, in September 1986, he joined the now-closed Hudson Dispatch, where he remained until 1991, when its doors were finally shut.

It was during his tenure at The Dispatch that Hague’s name and reputation as one of country’s hardest-working sports reporters grew. He won several New Jersey Press Association and North Jersey Press Club Awards in that timeframe.

In 1991, he became a columnist for The Hudson Reporter chain of newspapers — and he remains with them to this day.

In addition to his work at The Observer and The Hudson Reporter, Hague is also an Associated Press stringer, where he covers Seton Hall University men’s basketball, New York Red Bulls soccer and occasionally, New Jersey Devils hockey.

He’s also doing work at The Morristown Daily Record, the very newspaper where his journalism career began.

During his career, he also worked for Dorf Feature Services, which provided material for the Star-Ledger. While there, he covered the New York Knicks and the New Jersey Nets.

Hague is also known for his announcing work — and he’s done PA work for Rutgers Newark and NJIT.

Hague is the author of the book “Braddock: The Rise of the Cinderella Man.”