Interview with former Penn State Nittany Lion and Cleveland Browns' fullback Tim Manoa

Former Penn State and Cleveland Browns' fullback Tim Manoa played four seasons in the NFL, three with Cleveland and one with the Indianapolis Colts. Tim was also a member of the 1986 National Champion Penn State Nittany Lions who knocked off the high-powered Miami Hurricanes led then by 1986 Heisman Trophy winner Vinny Testaverde, 14-10 in the Fiesta Bowl. Tim rushed for 938 career yards on 236 carries with 6 touchdowns and caught 40 passes for 308 yards with 2 touchdowns in his NFL career.

Tim was kind enough to spend some time with me at Rocky's Personalized Training in Boardman, Ohio where he helps out his cousin and owner Rocky Taumoepeau. In my interview we touched on a little bit of everything from Tim's childhood, his high school career, and all the way to his time with the Browns. Tim was born in Tonga and ended up playing high school football in western Pennsylvania by way of Hawaii, and that's how my interview starts.

When did you move to the U.S.?

"I was born in Tonga and moved to Hawaii in 1974, Hawaii is where I discovered football. I attended Kahuku High, which went from grades 7-12 and then moved to Wexford, PA and played at North Allegheny High starting in 10th grade"
How did you end up in Pennsylvania from Hawaii?
"There were friends of my family from PA who went to my church, they always vacationed to Hawaii. They originally wanted to adopt my sister, but my father thought it would be a good idea for me to go with them, he felt I could get a better education in the states (mainland). In my senior year at North Allegheny we won the AAAA Football State Championship."

What college programs recruited you out of high school?

"I received letters from colleges all over the United States, but I visited Penn State, West Virginia, Pitt, Hawaii, and Ohio State. It came down to Penn State and Ohio State. Penn State had just won the national championship in 1982, and everyone there, and Coach Joe Paterno seemed down to earth. When I visited there Coach Paterno had me stay in one of the dorms, like the rest of the players and students, while the other schools I visited set me up in hotels. The other schools went out of their way, especially Ohio State. When I visited Ohio State they even had a jersey for me with my number on it in a locker. Joe Paterno offered me a scholarship, room and board and I liked the college atmosphere at Penn State as opposed to a place like Pitt which was right in the city, Penn State seemed to be the best fit for me."

What was it like playing for Joe Paterno and do you still keep in touch with him?

"Joe is a guy that when you're playing for him you hate him, and when you leave you love him. Joe and I had our differences, but Joe took a liking toward me. During my junior year, I asked Joe if I could be red-shirted, and he told me no, you're going to help win us a national championship this year. With Joe, you come to Penn State to go to school first, football came second and he meant it. Joe would send what they called spotters to classes to make sure you were in class. If you weren't in class you better believe you would be running gassers the next practice. Joe's wife tutored me, and my parents met him and his wife at the Aloha Bowl in Hawaii, which was the bowl game we played in that year. I still talk to Joe once in awhile, and he always welcomes me when I have visited Penn State, I have been in the locker room before games and if I ever need a signed ball for an auction or charity event, Joe will send me one."
The Nittany Lions didn't win the title that year as they lost in the national championship game to Oklahoma in 1985, but that moment was soon on the horizon.

What was your most memorable college game, besides winning the national championship vs. Miami?

"In my senior year we played Pitt at Pitt Stadium and I had a 69 yard touchdown run in front of alot of my old friends."
North Allegheny is less than a half-hour away from Pittsburgh.
When did you start to realize you might be good enough to play in the NFL?
"I didn't really know for sure, my running backs coach at Penn State told me he thought I had a chance to get drafted. I was invited to the Hula Bowl, the Senior Bowl, and the NFL Combine. At that point, I thought maybe it could happen, but I still never thought it was for sure."

Where were you when you found out you were drafted by the Browns?

"I didn't find out til the next day, back then the draft was 12 rounds, and I was at a get together for D.J. Dozier who I played with at Penn State, and Tim Johnson and some other teammates. The news was there and D.J. went 14th overall in the 1987 draft. The news crews left and later that day the Browns took me in the 3rd round, but I didn't find out til the next day when Head Coach Marty Schottenheimer called and told me the Browns had took me. My teammate from Penn State Steve Smith, also a fullback was taken by the Raiders with the very next pick."

Tim scored eight touchdowns in his career, six rushing, and two receiving. I asked him what his most memorable NFL touchdown was?

In 1989 we played the Steelers in the first game of the season. I scored two touchdowns (both rushing) and was named player of the game, and we beat the Steelers 51-0 at Three Rivers Stadium."

How did the fans in Cleveland treat you?

"The fans and the city were great to us, the Browns were very good then, and we were treated like kings."

I said to Tim I'm assuming most dinners and drinks were on the house back then and he laughed and said yes.

What was your most memorable moment of Coach Schottenheimer?

"I was on special teams and I was supposed to be a wedge-breaker, and Marty told me after a play in practice that if I didn't break that wedge next time he was gonna send me back to Hawaii in a canoe (laughing)"

After the infamous "fumble" in the AFC Championship game in Denver, what was the team's mood, did the guys talk on the plane flight home?

"Earnest Byner had a great game, I don't blame him, if everybody would have down their job, if Webster Slaughter didn't miss his assignment, things might have been different. We told Earnest he had a great game."

What is your favorite memory of Municipal Stadium?

"Coming through the tunnel, you knew when you came out you were going to war, no matter who you were playing. It was a long walk, and when that first player came out the fans went crazy, I would get goosebumps on my arms and butterflies in my stomach."

Did you have a rivalry with a particular player or players from another team?

"There wasn't a specific player, but Pittsburgh was always a hard-hitting game. Greg Lloyd was tough to block, as was Lawrence Taylor and Mike Singletary."

Was Steelers week different from other games during the year?

"You knew it was Steelers week that week during practice, practice was intense, you knew there was a rivalry. I had a friend Tim Johnson who played for the Steelers, he was on defense, I was on offense. We didn't speak at all during the game. All friendships were set aside during the game."

Who was the hardest hitter on the Browns when you played?

"Eddie Johnson would hit you hard, he was the toughest linebacker to handle in blocker-backer drills."

What was Bernie Kosar like in the huddle, did he ever joke around?
"Bernie was the man in charge, the captain, he would let you know if you did something wrong, but he would make you feel important if you made a good play. One time we were playing at Oakland and we were getting beat pretty bad, and we all had that look of defeat on our faces and a song came on over the loudspeaker and Bernie says if anyone can tell me what song is playing right now, I'll give you $100. He would joke around sometimes, but would always remind us we had a game to play."

What are you thoughts on Art Modell?

"I have no hard feelings toward Art, I think he got a raw deal, with the new stadiums being built for the Indians and Cavs around the same time, and after he left they ended up building a new one anyway."

Did you pay attention to the media at all when you played?

"Not really, we were told not to read the papers, but back then, there weren't many negative things being said, we were playing well."

What are your thoughts on the new Browns and Eric Mangini?

"There are a couple of the new draft picks from the islands, David Veikune and Kuluka Maiava who I've gotten a chance to talk to. I wish them and the team the best. I think Eric Mangini has his own style and philosophy and we'll have to see if it works, I didn't think he did too bad with the Jets."

Going back to the beginning of your NFL career, was there any rookie hazing?

"Yes, we had to get up and sing our college alma-mater at training camp, and they had the rookies going all over town on Thanksgiving day trying to get turkeys when alot of the places were out of them. We had to bring doughnuts in the morning and then that turned into bringing in breakfast for the position group you were in."

What are your thoughts on the role of agents?

"Players need direction, especially rookies, and you don't want to be sitting with the GM of the team and hearing him say you suck at this or that when you're trying to negotiate a contract."

I asked if the agents flew more under the radar back then compared to now and Tim agreed, that you didn't hear much about agents in the news back then, they just did their job for the most part and didn't try to be celebrities.

Lastly, what are you doing now these days?

"I'm helping teach speed training here at Rocky's. I love to help kids of all ages."
I can attest to the fact that many athletes, high school, college, and even professional, including Kelly Pavlik have worked out at and have gotten personal training from Rocky, check out his site...
It was fun talking football with Tim Manoa, from Joe Paterno and Penn State, and especially about some of the better years in Cleveland Browns history. Tim made this easy for me, was very personable, and I appreciate the time he set aside to let a die-hard Browns fan/regular Joe like me talk to him. Tim and Rocky are good people and I wish them continued success with their gym. I hope I made this as much fun for you reading it as it was for me writing this. Thanks for checking me out and I'll see you in my next entry.

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Glad he's doing well. We still love him at PSU.