UC Davis running back Gabe Manzanares literally came out of nowhere last season to become the Big Sky Conference’s Newcomer of the Year.
The unheralded walk-on transfer hadn’t even started in junior college, but he broke out for 1,285 yards and 10 touchdowns, adding 385 receiving yards and another score through the air.
Overlooked no more, Manzanares was chosen for the preseason all-conference team, but a foot injury limited his effectiveness and playing time early in the year.
Manzanares missed all of the first two games of the season and averaged only 18 yards per game in limited duty over the next three games.
Then came a breakout 19-carry, 143-yard performance against Montana State — both season highs, and Manzanares has seemed back to his old self ever since.
In last week’s 23-21 loss at Northern Arizona, Manzanares rushed for 83 yards on 16 carries, threw a 29-yard touchdown pass and caught four receptions for 47 yards.
He’s averaging 96.5 yards per game over the past four games, and any hope the Aggies have of retaking the Golden Horseshoe trophy likely rests on his shoulders.
“Gabe Manzanares is the heart and soul of what we do on this team,” UC Davis head coach Ron Gould said. “This guy inspires everyone by his work ethic every day, and it’s amazing. He’s a guy who will obviously practice for our offense, and on the defensive side on scout team, he’ll jump out there and play their running back and receiver.
“His passion and energy for the game is infectious, and he’s a young man where we’re so blessed to have him. We’re going to live and die with Gabe Manzanares.”