No one needs to remind Manuel “Manny” Orona life is all about perseverance. The Glendale Community College sophomore offensive tackle’s road to Division I football has a backdrop almost too perfect for a Hollywood screenplay.
It started back in middle school when Orona noticed a brochure for Franklin Police and Fire High School in central Phoenix. He was first intrigued with the opportunity to earn college credits, while pursuing his passion for fire science and one day becoming a firefighter.
While FPFHS allowed Orona a path to chase his dream in the classroom he still had the itch to continue to play football for his neighborhood school, Trevor Browne High School.
What followed were long hours studying at Franklin Police and Fire during the day, while grinding away on the football field for the Bruins in between hopscotching from bus stop to bus stop, navigating the 20-mile round trip commute between schools.
“Going from Franklin to Trevor daily, it was a struggle,” Orona said to Sports360AZ.com. “I had to catch two busses and I showed up like 30 minutes late to practice.”
On the field it was a struggle, as well. Browne won just two games in Orona’s two seasons on varsity.
As his senior year started coming to a close, he believed it was likely time to focus more on fire and less on football.
That is until the internet helped catch the attention of one well-respected local college coach.
“I was searching Hudl [footage] randomly looking through the Phoenix metro schools,” Glendale Community College offensive line coach Jason Jewell said to Sports360AZ.com. “Looking for big kids that kind of passed that eyeball test. I was looking at Trevor Browne’s Hudl…he didn’t have a lot of film. But what he did have I liked.”
Thanks to Jewell and practically by accident, Orona was given an opportunity to continue his career on the gridiron.
He arrived at GCC a raw talent and quickly transformed himself into a D-1 player while garnering two-time all-conference honors and, most importantly, maintaining a 3.3 GPA.
“When he came on his [college] visit he only weighed 235 pounds,” Jewell explained. “When he showed up for his first day of training he weighed 285 pounds. He ended up beating out another kid at left tackle. He’s done everything we’ve ever asked him to do.”
His success at the junior college level led to interest or offers from a number of Power Five schools including ASU, UCLA, Oklahoma State and Kansas State but the loyal Orona committed to the first to offer him, the University of Memphis. He will transition from tackle inside to right guard and is scheduled to start for head coach Mike Norvell next fall if he continues to add strength and bulk to his already 6-foot-3, 300-pound frame.
It’s is an honor to say that I am 100% committed to the University of Memphis thank you for @RSilverfield @KennyDillingham and @Coach_Norvell for presenting and giving me this great opportunity #GoTigersGo. pic.twitter.com/BmZZoxlfAx
— 🇲🇽Manuel orona🇲🇽 (@Manuelorona00) January 14, 2018
“Memphis really focuses on football and academics,” he explained. “They give you opportunities. They help you earn internships. They help you map out your future. Let’s say you don’t make it to the NFL. What’s your plan?”
Orona is the first Division I football prospect from Trevor Browne in close to 20 years according to Jewell, the only coach in the world to offer him an opportunity to play at the next level.
— GCC Gauchos FB (@GauchosFB) January 25, 2018
All it takes is one coach at one school and a student-athlete having the right attitude to make the most of said opportunity.
As they say, timing is everything.
Manny Orona is proof to chase your dreams and make the most of what is presented to you.