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May 30, 2013Following his decision to commit to Arizona State Thursday we spoke with Novato (Calif.) San Marin quarterback Manny Wilkins for this extensive Q&A.
ASUDevils.com: This seemed likely to happen after speaking with you following your visit and then when ASU offered. Was it inevitable that you were going to commit to ASU?
Manny Wilkins: I was ready they day they offered but I think the main thing is I wanted to sit it out and make sure it was right decision for me. So I took some time to do that and realized it was definitely what I wanted. I'll take an official visit to ASU and won't take any other visits to any schools and I'm completely done with recruiting.
ASUDevils.com: What was it that led you to this decision?
Wilkins: Overall, everything. The academics, it's one of the best schools in the country in what I'm looking into studying. I think I saw that and am happy I saw that. As far as football, I think it's a perfect fit. Coach (Mike) Norvell is a great coach. They have the No. 14 offense in the country and that was their first season. All of the quarterbacks, not just the starter, have said good things. They're comfortable with the decisions there. I know that (Michael) Eubank came in and did some things backing up (Taylor) Kelly so they're not just focused on one guy but on doing whatever it takes to put their best foot forward to win games. So I'm looking forward to being apart of that and helping the team win a Rose Bowl and a national championship.
ASUDevils.com: Describe the emotion, what do you feel?
Wilkins: It's just great, it's awesome. It's hard to say. It's me. I'm going to be playing college football in 18 months. It's what I've dreamed of and I couldn't think of a better place to be a part of it than Arizona State.
ASUDevils.com: What as the response from coach Norvell or (Todd) Graham or whoever you spoke with?
Wilkins: I talked to coach Norvell and going to get coach Graham here in a couple seconds. Coach Norvell was pretty stoked. He's happy this happened and I'm happy it happened. I just need to stay up and help those coaches out there recruiting.
ASUDevils.com: I didn't know that you trained with (well known Northern California quarterback guru) Roger Theder until I spoke with your uncle (and guardian) Chris (Cassanovas)?
Wilkins: Yeah he's helped me out a lot. He's helped me out bigtime with my mechanics and everything. He's been completely helpful and I'm really appreciative for that. I can't wait to use what he's taught me. I've been going every weekend for about two years, two and a half years now.
ASUDevils.com: In what ways, technically, mechanically, have you evolved since you've worked with him? What's the focus been?
Wilkins: Showing poise when I'm playing the position. Showing that I know how to do a lot of footwork stuff and making sure my feet are right. Just a lot of little things. How you do the small things. So I think it's key for me to do the basics well and as you do them you get a little more advanced. I've trained a little with Adam Tafralis a little too. He's a great coach and worked with the Elite-11 staff. I've worked with him from time to time on the side. I've had some great coaches work with me.
ASUDevils.com: When you train with Roger you leave early in the morning for an hour drive?
Wilkins: Yeah, I get up around 6 and leave by 7 and usually don't get home until around 2. He says we're going to go for two hours but we'll end up being 3.5 hours usually.
ASUDevils.com: Tell me about yourself as a quarterback. You seem to have a pretty big arm and good mechanics, good size, mobile for a pass-first guy. How would you describe your game and who do you look up to?
Wilkins: It's hard to say exactly who I relate to. I like the way (San Francisco 49er Colin) Kaepernick plays. I like his style a lot and he's a great quarterback. So I watch his game a lot. I think with me, overall, quarterbacks need to be a great leader. That's the No. 1 thing, earning the respect of your teammates. You get the ball in your hands every play. You study film, look at film, live, eat, breath, everything film. You need to build bonds with your teammates and I think I'm going with that, building bonds with the people who I'm going to be surrounded with. And second, when I play, I just play because it's what I love to do. I don't play for stats or any of that. Yeah it's great but not what it's all about. I respond well to pressure, I don't choke. I'm just going to relax and that's what I do. I think I show great poise on the field and show that I'm somebody who is striving for greatness.
ASUDevils.com: At ASU's scrimmage the first time you visited, you seemed to get along really well quickly with some other recruits like Tyler Whiley and Trevor Wood and I've seen you on twitter trying to talk to Natrell Curtis and Casey Tucker. It seems like you're very committed to helping ASU land other guys to build out a strong class?
Wilkins: To be the best you have to recruit the best. I think we can end up landing some guys and doing some special things. There's a lot of talented guys out there and I'm talented that we'll be a national team and there will be guys who want to become Sun Devils. I think that's great and I'm excited for it and I'm going to do everything I can to help get players there so we can be the best and try to win championships. I'm excited for it. There's going to be people who want to be a part of this and I know it and it's going to be great.
ASUDevils.com: Have you already started to get feeedback from some of these guys or is it too early for that?
Wilkins: Yeah I have. I'm not going to say any names because some people want to wait and not have everything out there. But I'm talking to a lot of guys and think a lot of people will want to be a part of this.
ASUDevils.com: What was the story I heard about one of the top players in the country at one of the camps only wanting to jump in there and catch balls thrown by you?
Wilkins: Yeah, Michiah Quick (No. 60 overall in Rivals100). He's from my 7-on-7 team. There's not a lot of talent in the central valley so it was great to throw to him and I'm going to try my hardest to persuade him to come to ASU with me.
ASUDevils.com: It's unique that your uncle (Chris Casanovas) and his wife are your guardians. How much have they helped you just get to where you're at today?
Wilkins: It's been amazing. I've been given a great opportunity by them and it's been phenomenal. I'm very grateful for the opportunity they put on the table for me. It's something big to elevate your love and create such a family environment and they've shown that. I've been very grateful for that and what they've done for me, having me be a part of their family. I think it's something that's been great. I've been through a lot in my life. My father passed when I was 10 and I was in trouble when I was young. I never really had my head on right until these last couple years. I stopped using everything as an excuse and made sure I'm going to do something with my life. I'm going to be somebody and I'm going to be somebody to look up to. That's my overall goal, to be a role model and show kids that people do come from bad situations and prevail.
ASUDevils.com: When you say you came from a place where you got in trouble a lot as a kid, was that mostly just dumb kid stuff?
Wilkins: Yeah exactly. It was just not taking things seriously, getting kicked out of class or in trouble for little things. Nothing big. I never took academics and school seriously enough but that's all changed in recent years. The No. 1 thing I've learned is that nothing is more important or valuable than the education you're going to get. Schools are investing thousands of dollars in you and it's a responsibility. It's going to be a great time for me to use that to my advantage and enjoy my four years and the academics and football.
ASUDevils.com: Just so I have the timeline right, you were living where you lived now, then moved to Texas, the Houston area, for a little bit, and went to school there as a freshman but then things kind of went bad and you moved back to California. Is that right?
Wilkins: Yeah. I was at Elkins High School. I was on varsity but didn't play at quarterback.
ASUDevils.com: It seems like Mike Norvell might have been the x-factor for you, and just sitting down with him and connecting over looking at film. Is that how you feel?
Wilkins: Yeah I was blown away. I felt like I was committed already when I was there. Actually I felt like I was already on the team and going to school there the way I was treated. We talked about the game and everything, what I need to look at and work on and things like that and I loved it.
ASUDevils.com: Is there anything else important that I've missed?
Wilkins: Not really. I feel fortunate to be in this situation and think I have a powerful story that can help other people. I think it's something special and for people who have made mistakes in life, you can come back from that. I'm not perfect, nobody's perfect. I'll still make mistakes. But the No. 1 thing I'm willing to learn new things and grow and I never shut anything out. You can't judge something before you do something. That's a good mindset I have. There's one thing I can't stress enough and it's not letting anything change me. I'm going to make good decisions with my life and I'm a Sun Devil now and it's going to be great. The next four years are going to be a great experience and I can't wait. I'm super excited. I want to show the people of Tempe an ASU they're going to have a competitor and great young man with character coming in.