Oct. 2, 2014
By Jon Cooper
The Good Word – Georgia Tech faithful will never forget the ending to the 1999 Georgia Tech-Georgia renewal, a thrilling 51-48 overtime thriller won by the Jackets at Historic Grant Field at Bobby Dodd Stadium.
On Friday, Oct. 10, the school will make sure that the man who recorded the game-winning points is immortalized as well, when kicker Luke Manget is inducted into the Georgia Tech Sports Hall of Fame.
Manget, who scored more points than anyone in Georgia Tech history in his years on The Flats (1999-2002), will be part of a class of six that also includes James Butler (Football and a teammate of Manget for two seasons), Michael Johnson (Track and Field), Alvin Jones (Basketball), Lynnette Moster (Volleyball), and Bryan Prince (Baseball). The event will be held at the Georgia Tech Hotel and Conference Center. Tickets for the dinner are $50 and can be purchased through the Alexander-Tharpe Fund at 404-894-6124. The inductees will also be honored during Georgia Tech’s football game against Duke on Saturday, Oct. 11, at Bobby Dodd Stadium.
“I was pretty shocked when [Associate Director, Communications and Public Relations] Mike [Stamus] called me,’ said Manget, who will be presented by his high school coach Matt Fligg. “I hadn’t heard anything before that when he called me and told me. It’s not something I never thought about but I just kind of had developed this belief that it wouldn’t happen. It was a great feeling. A very humbling feeling.”
Manget, whose kicks accumulated 322 career points, 10th all-time in ACC history, recalled a different kind of humility that he felt early on and that the entire trajectory of his career could have taken a different path had things turned out differently on Nov. 27,, 1999.
“The Georgia kick my freshman year was big in a lot of ways,” he said. “First and foremost, it really made me rededicate myself to football and to Georgia Tech. I kind of struggled my freshman year with academics and athletics. It was a big load to bear coming in first semester, marching right into it. I got kind of discouraged through the year, wondering if I was going to be able to make it through. It really helped me stay focused and kind of hunker down for the long haul.
“If that game hadn’t come or that kick hadn’t come or if I had missed that kick, it’s funny how things could have ended up differently. But it really defined that first season for me, for sure, and ended up defining my career.”
He actually DID miss the kick the first time, but another future Georgia Tech Sports Hall of Famer stepped up and made a big-time play, allowing Manget to step into a second try and make the kick that would result in the first overtime game-winning kick in Tech history.
Manget’s first attempt from the right hash, at the 28-yard line, was blocked, but holder George Godsey (Hall of Fame Class of 2012) outhustled everyone, leaping, catching the ball and advancing a couple of yards. Because the kick was taken on third down, Manget got to try again. Given a second life, this time from the left hash, the freshman left no doubts, burying the 38-yarder, giving the Jackets the victory.
Manget didn’t have any doubts the remainder of his career, nor did the Yellow Jackets have any when No. 87 took the field.
He finished his college career converting 54 of 77 field goals (second all-time behind only Scott Sisson’s 60 FGMs), a 70.1 success rate that ranks third all-time in school history, with a long of 51. He was automatic on extra points, converting all 160 attempts, setting school records for PATs attempted (22 more than the nearest Jacket), PATs made and consecutive PATs made. He also held records for field goal attempts in a game (seven) and a season (28).
The last of those extra points, and his final collegiate kick, came in his final game, the Silicon Valley Bowl, at Spartan Stadium in San Jose, Calif., on Dec. 31, 2002. It came with 58 seconds left in the third quarter, following a 42-yard touchdown pass from Damarius Bilbo to Jonathan Smith and gave the Jackets a 21-20 lead in what would be a 30-21 loss.
That capped a career that saw him earn back-to-back first-team All-ACC honors and a second-team selection as a senior. He helped the Jackets win 32 games, play in a bowl game all four of his years and hit the top 10 nationally in 1999 and 2001.
Manget graduated with a 23-point lead after passing previous leader, kicker Scott Sisson on Nov. 2, 2002 at NC State. The record looked like it would be short-lived, however, as Travis Bell, who took over kicking duties in 2004, issued a strong challenge. He had 318 points heading into his final game, the Humanitarian Bowl, coincidentally against Fresno State and five years to the day after Manget’s final game. Bell went 4-for-4 on extra points, including one with 13:06 remaining in the game, but he never got a chance to pass Manget with a field goal or tie him with a PAT.
“He was a great kicker and I’ve talked with him a couple of times,” said Manget. “I was pulling for him, and I remember watching the bowl game wondering at the end there if he was going to get another chance. I had mixed feelings about it. I wanted him to do well but keeping that record isn’t too bad, either.”
The company Manget will keep in the Hall of Fame Class of 2014 certainly isn’t bad.
“It’s a great class,” he said. “They were great athletes, I remember their names, I remember watching them. I think this class speaks a lot for the whole athletic program when I was there. We were solid in a lot of areas.”
While Manget will enjoy the opportunity to look back at his career at the induction banquet, he’s moving full-speed ahead with his life.
He’s a father of three and, when not helping out his wife, Natalie, is working on his doctorate in Environmental History and Appalachian History at the University of Georgia, working with John Inscoe, a renowned expert in the field.
Manget, who estimated that he has about three years left, has let bygones be bygones with Georgia and has found that most people in Athens have as well.
“I’d say the vast majority of the people in the History program didn’t remember who I was but there were a couple of people that did have long memories. They had been fans and watched the game in ’99,” he said.
“I had one professor who claimed he tried to get the admissions committee to reject me because of my football career, and I’ve had a couple of other grad students who kind of give me a hard time here and there,” he added, with a laugh. “I’d say, since a lot of these people got their undergrad degrees in other places, they’re either fans of another school or not really sports fans at all. I have been called out a couple of times, once in the library, as I was checking out a book, but by and large they’ve been kind to me.”
History will be kind to Manget and he’s looking forward to taking his place in it on Oct. 10. He plans on expressing his gratitude not only to the people that voted him in but to those he feels made his nomination and place in the Tech record books possible.
“It suggests I did my job,” he said. “I was able to go out there every time people expected me to and didn’t let them down, didn’t lose focus. It also suggests that I had a great unit that performed its roles flawlessly, from blocking, to snapping to holding. We were just a well-oiled machine for four years.
“To have my name mentioned and listed up there with the best players to come through Georgia Tech, is really an honor,” he added. “It suggests that I played on some really good teams, that I stayed healthy for four years and kind of held my position as the starting kicker for a long time. And I was able to make a lot of kicks.”
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