The 2013 football season elicited a great deal of change for the Aggies (5-7, 5-2 Big Sky). There was the hiring of new head coach Ron Gould and the innovative program that came with him. But the change that generated the majority of the Aggies’ offensive success had just walked on to the UC Davis campus at the start of the summer.
Junior running back Gabe Manzanares stood out among the rest in his first season as an Aggie. The former Wesleyan University and City College of San Francisco substitute finished the year with 1,285 yards (seventh most in UC Davis single-season history) and rushed for 10 touchdowns.
Out of the backfield, Manzanares caught 27 passes for 385 yards. Getting the ball to the quick and powerful back was a key ingredient in the Aggies’ recipe for success.
The San Francisco, Calif. native first turned heads with a 208-yard performance against Idaho State. Manzanares captured the attention of both Aggie fans and opponents and, due in large part to his impressive drive and dedication, continued to produce one impressive performance after another.
“He has a heart as big as the United States,” said coach Gould. “He never wants to come out of the game, and what you see out [there] is what you see every day in practice; he by far sets the tone for what practice is going to be like.”
Despite the upsetting home loss against Cal Poly, Manzanares still gave UC Davis something to celebrate as he became the first Aggie to rush over 1,000 yards since Matt Massari rushed for 1,274 yards in 2002.
“That running back is legit,” Cal Poly coach Tim Walsh said of Manzanares. “He’s a great player.”
“Obviously that’s an awesome achievement,” Manzanares said regarding the feat. “I [attribute] all the success to the [offensive line], my fullback Dalton Turay, the tight ends and the receivers blocking downfield. It’s a team effort.”
In the last home game of the season against Northern Colorado, the St. Ignatius High graduate moved up to eighth on the Aggies’ single-season rushing list with 1,163 yards while advancing six spots to fourth for single-season carries with 232.
At the season’s finish, Manzanares passed Matt Brown (1,183 in 2000) for the seventh spot, and fell two yards short of G.P. Muhammad (1,287 in 1998) for fourth all-time, earning the fifth spot.
In UC Davis’ 34-7 victory over Sacramento State in the 60th Causeway Classic, Manzanares accounted for 217 yards — 122 rushing and 95 more receiving on four receptions — with a pair of touchdowns. The ground-game workhorse scored from 2- and 33-yards in the first quarter. It was the junior transfer’s fifth consecutive 100-yard ground game.
“His professionalism, his heart and want to succeed … the young man is going to be very successful,” coach Gould said. “I am so fortunate, very grateful that he stumbled into our lap. I don’t know what we would do without him.”
Manzanares’ impressive season earned him the title of Male Athlete of the Quarter. Look for big things from Manzanares next season as the UC Davis football program will luckily have him back next year for his senior season.