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December 21, 2015

Emmanuel and The Show

The Manny Show

Manny Arceneaux is a man of few words, or many words, depending on the day. He’s at times both boisterous and intensely shy. He’s cavalier and pensive. There are really two sides to him: Emmanuel Arceneaux and The Manny Show. 

“A lot of people get caught up in the persona of The Manny Show, but few really know who Emmanuel Arceneaux is,” he says. It’s bye week at this time for the Lions, but Arceneaux is at the office with me, fresh off a workout. “They get so caught up in me on the field or as a football player that they forget who I am as a person. They’re two separate people. The Manny Show is what you see on the field. I talk; I trash talk. Emmanuel Arceneaux is the guy off the field, my life.”

He’s got such a laid-back style when he speaks that you think he’s not really invested in the conversation. Nothing could be further from the truth. Every thing Arceneaux says he believes, and he backs up. He’s nothing if not entirely honest about himself.

After finishing 2014 sixth in the league among receivers with 905 yards on 62 catches and a league-leading 8 touchdowns, Arceneaux entered his fifth season with the Lions a more relaxed player, but he still has that edge. In fact, he made such a name for himself with his Manny Show persona last season that people have come to expect game-changing, big plays from the big-bodied receiver each game. And he did not disappoint in 2015. #84 led the team in receiving yards (1,151) and touchdowns (9), and put on highlight-reel after highlight-reel plays. 

“I’m not just a football player and I think for any of us, people forget that sometimes,” Arceneaux says. “Doing backflips in the end zone, that’s me as a football player. That’s for the fans. They come to see a show so we need to put one on for them. That’s not me as a person.

“My style of play is physical, dirty and talking trash.” He pauses to laugh a little. “That’s what people pay to see so that’s what they get. We’re in a business as much as we’re playing a sport. Off the field I’m really laid back. I stay to myself a lot. Do things myself a lot. It’s a switch. I can be at the game and in a heated battle but as soon as that part is over it’s off.”

Watch him at practice or at the gym or even in his own personal life – where he coaches and volunteers with the Canucks Autism Network in his free time – and it also becomes apparent that he works hard. Like really hard. He’s up at 4:30am most days. Today, he has to cut our interview a bit short to make it to Gastown on time. He has a meeting with a production company about a possible commercial partnership. “It’s all about staying relevant,” he tells me. “I’m not going to play football forever.”

Perhaps that’s really the gist of Arceneaux: he doesn’t bring his personal life to the game, and the football life? That stays on the field. The two stay separate, and in a way, a lot of people don’t really know Arceneaux as a person.

“I think I’m a little misunderstood,” he says. “That’s from me keeping everything personal, but people sometimes don’t understand why I think what I think or why I say what I say.”

 

Emmanuel Arceneaux

When Melanie Anderson contacted Arceneaux on Facebook in the off-season, she was looking for some one to train her autistic son Dylan and spend some time with him. Arceneaux jumped at the chance. “I didn’t know a lot about autism or how to deal with that so when we first started training together I paid no attention to it,” he says 

I just trained him how I would any other kid. I think that’s what makes it work. I’ve learned more about autism since then but to me Dylan’s just a kid. I want him to feel as normal as possible.”

From that experience, Arceneaux joined the Canucks Autism Network and does additional work with the MS Society. He’s also branched out with his own speed and agility training program, The Academy, taking on some hockey and basketball teams this past year. He remains very active with the Lions Read, Write & Roar and Huddle Up Against Bullying programs as well. 

My thing is, how can I help these kids be better?” he says, matter-of-factly. As if nothing else is as important to him. “If a pro player is something that motivates them and I’m right within arm’s reach, why not give back? What else am I’m doing with my free time other than sleeping or sitting down? I really just wanted to take advantage of my position and the opportunity I had to give back.”

That’s Manny though; the real Manny. The one not everyone sees. The Manny who is as laid back as they come, who’s favourite show is SpongeBob SquarePants, and who draws a pretty good Darkwing Duck.

He’s not Manny the football player when he’s off the field, doesn’t want to be. He wants to be Manny, your coach, or Manny, your friend. When people meet him outside of football, they’re often surprised by how forthcoming he is. He likes everyone. He’ll talk to anyone. He has the biggest heart.

“For me. It’s like, when I’m out coaching or with the community programs I just really want people to talk to me like a regular guy. Fans that I talk to and hang out with, I’m just your friend, not a football player.” 

“That’s the point I’m tying to make,” he says, laughing, after I’ve asked him for about the seventh time how he reconciles the two sides of himself. “Football is my job; my life is my life.”

That drive to mentor and nurture youth comes from Arceneaux’s own struggles growing up without a father figure. While he met his dad when he was 17, he vaguely hints that the two aren’t all that close. His hero? His mom.  “She made ends meet when I was certain there was no way for those ends to meet. I’m still so frugal, remnants of my childhood,” he says, laughing. “It’s actually pitiful.”

He checks his watch. He has to leave pretty soon. We say our goodbyes and I’m left feeling like there are a couple more sides to him that I probably still don’t know.

“You want to know, just ask,” he says, with that signature Manny grin and laugh. “I’ll tell you.” That’s one thing I am completely sure of: whatever you get from Manny, it’s 100% in the moment.