By David Fong
TROY — Jason Manson grew up watching his heroes.
Little did he know he’d one day be joining their ranks as Troy football royalty.
“I was just a little whipper snapper, maybe 7 years old, when Steve Nolan came to Troy and they started having some really good football teams,” Manson said. “This town is a football town and it was pretty exciting watching those guys play. Growing up, I constantly heard stories from my dad about legendary players like Bob Ferguson, Tommy Vaughn, Tommy Myers and Gordon Bell.
“Then when we would go to games as a kid and got to see Aaron Johnson, Mike Delwiche and Kevin Mescher, I felt pretty honored — and pretty cool — to be able to go out and play for the same school those guys did. I even thought it was cool that I was returning kickoffs from the same spot that Jesse Olden returned kicks from. Stuff like that I remember, and think that’s special to be a part of.”
Manson would go on to make his own name in the Troy football program, playing outside linebacker on Troy’s star-studded teams in the mid-1990s. As a sophomore, he was named All-Greater Miami Valley Conference. As a junior, he was named first-team All-Ohio and the Division I Southwest District Defensive Player of the Year. As a senior, he was named Ohio Division I Defensive Co-Player of the Year and All-Southwest District Defensive Player of the Year. Following his career at Troy, he went on to play at the University of Toledo.
For all his accomplishments on the football field, Manson — who also played basketball at Troy — will be inducted into this year’s Troy Athletic Hall of Fame class. Joining him in this year’s class will be coach Hildred Byrkett (who coached at Troy from 1945-1974), athlete/coach Vicki Felver (class of 1968), football/basketball/baseball player Dan Cox (class of 1977) and football/hockey/ track athlete Todd Denlinger (class of 2005).
The five will be introduced prior to Friday’s Troy football game against Cincinnati Turpin in officially inducted in a ceremony Saturday at the Bravo Room in Hobart Arena. Byrkett will be inducted posthumously.
“I think it’s a great honor, obviously,” Manson said. “I’m pretty excited about it. It’s exciting when you stop to think about all of the great athletes that have come through Troy High School.”
Manson terrorized opposing backfields with his speed coming off the edge at outside linebacker, recording double-digit sacks both of his last two years at Troy. His 77-yard fumble return for a touchdown against Toledo Rogers as a junior remains the second-longest in school history. He also was an ace on Troy’s special teams, not only on Troy’s kick-blocking units, but in the return game. He holds the unofficial school record for most blocked punts in a career and has two of the longest kickoff returns for touchdowns (86 yards against Columbus Brookhaven and 85 yards against Northmont) in school history.
He also was a part of two of the better teams in school history. In 1995, the Trojans went 9-2, won the GMVC and qualified for the playoffs. In his senior year, Troy went 11-1, losing only to eventual state champion Lima Senior in the Division I regional title game. That year Troy finished the regular season as the Associated Press Division I poll champions and were ranked in the top 25 in the country by USA Today at one point.
Manson said he remembers the team’s success on the field and his friendships he made off of it.
“I met a lot of different friends and family playing football at Troy,” he said. “Most of the friends I made playing football are guys I still consider my best friends to this day. We were a pretty tight group. We liked to have fun together. I remember Coach (Aaron) Johnson telling us once that we liked to goof around and act like knuckleheads together, but when the time came to strap it up and play, it was all business.
“I think that team was the perfect storm of three great classes coming together at the same time. I mean, they were three classes of dudes. I always felt like we were a great class, then we had a great class behind us and the sophomore class had some guys everyone remembers in (Troy Athletic Hall of Fame members) (Ryan) Brewer and (Kris) Dielman. Honestly, I never once thought about losing that entire season. The thought of that happening never even entered my mind. When it did, it hit my like a ton of bricks.”
Manson would go on to play at Toledo, where he earned three letters and was a part of a Mid-American Conference title and played in the Motor City Bowl. He has since returned to Troy, where he works in real estate and currently serves as the Trojans’ outside linebackers coach.
“Football has opened up a lot of doors for me,” he said. “It’s pretty awesome being back here coaching and being a part of this community again.”
Contact David Fong at email@example.com; follow him on Twitter @thefong