Mann signs with Franklin College footballApril 7, 2021
By COREY STOLZENBACH
JASPER — Signing to continue his football career at Franklin College — or anywhere else, didn’t seem like the most plausible happening when Blake Mann was a freshman.
“It was the last play in practice — like our last full contact practice our freshman year,” Mann said. “We just ran a play and I rolled out and got tackled. I broke both bones in my leg and shifted my growth plates. So, I actually am like an inch shorter on my right leg than on my left.”
Mann told the Herald Wednesday morning that he now deals with some back problems, and doctors recommended that he didn’t play football any longer.
“I went to Vanderbilt for a third surgery, and he said it was my decision and whatever I wanted to do, then that was okay,” he said.
“I was hoping maybe the surgeon would say, ‘Hey, he probably shouldn’t play contact sports,’ because the leg was a pretty tremendous injury that stunted his growth on that side, and so, they had to do some creative things to get his leg discrepancy back to a normal length,” Blake’s father, Rick, said. “So, I wouldn’t have imagined he would’ve wanted to play football.”
Yet, Blake loves the game. The youngest of four siblings, he has memories of holding a football from the time he could walk and playing with his older brothers, Barton and Braxton.
He missed his sophomore year completely, but came back out for the Wildcats his junior year — where he started out as a receiver, but moved to quarterback and helped the Wildcats win the final Big Eight Conference championship.
“I think first and foremost, he’s athletic,” Jasper coach Tony Lewis said. “He can throw the football, he can run the football. Obviously, he ran the ball a lot — he was one of our main runners this year. And he’s going to be representing us in the (Indiana Football Coaches Association North-South All-Star Classic on July 9) because of that.”
Blake had high praise for Franklin’s coaching staff. He told of head coach Alan Hensell and offensive coordinator Steve McNeely reaching out and checking in on him a lot. Blake will be a business major, and described the campus as having a hometown feel.
He won’t be the first person in his family, however, to play football at Franklin. His uncle, Reece, played quarterback for the Grizzlies under longtime coach Red Faught. Reece wore No. 7. He’s the superintendent of Muncie’s Delaware Community School Corporation, and has FC7 as his license plate.
“We’re praying for my brother,” Rick said. “He’s battling bile duct cancer, which is a very rare form of cancer — it’s a very aggressive cancer. The motto is, ‘Mann Up.’ The basketball team kind of came up with this motto to Mann Up, and Reece, through COVID, has just asked everybody in the school system to adapt to and overcome.
“So, it’s ‘Mann Up,’ adapt and overcome, and he’s working hard to get through this as well,” he continued. “So, it’s a really special day just kind of in honor of my brother, too. I think Blake probably said that he wants to follow in his footsteps, but also create his own."
It’s certainly been an eventful week for Blake. He was the winning pitcher in his first varsity appearance with the baseball team in Jasper’s 20-2 win April 1 at Washington, and the Wildcats currently stand at 3-0.
“Right now, I’m playing baseball and not really focused on anything else,” Blake said. “So, as soon as baseball’s over, I’ll probably be in the weight room two times a day.”
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