UC Davis football head coach Ron Gould has made a habit out of creating star running backs. He has coached the likes of future NFL players Marshawn Lynch and Justin Forsett before his time here in Davis. Luckily for Gould, he had a dominating running back at the head of his team during his first year coaching UC Davis.
Gabe Manzanares struggled to break through in his first two collegiate stops. He gained a grand total of 11 yards in one year at Wesleyan before sitting on the bench behind star running back Kris Olugbode at City College of San Francisco.
Manzanares came to UC Davis as a walk-on with little expectations and made an immediate impact, leading the Aggies in carries during his first game against USD. Still, he struggled in the first few games, averaging 3.5 yards per carry.
Against Idaho State University, however, Manzanares first proved his worth. The walk-on rushed for 208 yards on 34 carries while adding three catches that day, leading UC Davis to a 17 point victory.
From that point on, Manzanares had found his stride. Over the rest of the season, the new Aggie ran for 1,122 yards while becoming the first Aggie since 2002 to break the 1,000-yard barrier. Over that stretch of games, he eclipsed 100 yards in seven out of eight games.
Throughout the season, Manzanares proved himself to be both an outstanding rusher and receiver. In addition to his 1,285 yards and 10 touchdowns on the ground, the walk-on caught 23 balls for 290 yards and a touchdown.
For his great season, Manzanares was named to the All-Big Sky third team, an honor that he will surely continue to improve upon.
Coach Gould had an up-and-down first season at UC Davis. The Aggies lost seven of 12 games, including back to back beatdowns by conference opponents Cal Poly and Montana State. Still, Gould seems to have found his workhorse running back in his first season as a head coach. With the pair leading the way, the Aggies should be able to find far more success in the win column next season.
Manzanares’ excellent work, despite the subpar success of the team, and his ability to make an instant impact for the Aggies is why he is The Aggie’s Male Athlete of the Year.
RYAN REED can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.