Brison Manor Jr. wants to be left alone today.
The 61-year-old former Bridgeton resident will be riveted to the TV in his Little Rock, Ark., home and will be rooting for the Denver Broncos to beat Seattle in Super Bowl XLVIII at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford.
"I'm going to make sure my doors are locked and my phone is off the hook," Manor said with a laugh during a phone interview earlier this week. "I'm anticipating a great game between the two best teams in the NFL. But, of course, I have to pull for the Broncos."
Manor, a 1971 Bridgeton High School graduate, played defensive end for the Broncos from 1977-1984. During his first year with the team, Denver made the Super Bowl for the first time in franchise history, losing 27-10 to Dallas in Super Bowl XII at the Superdome in New Orleans.
He is one of three former Cape-Atlantic League football players to have played in the Super Bowl. Wildwood graduate Randy Beverly grabbed two interceptions as a cornerback for the New York Jets during their
16-7 win over the favored Baltimore Colts in Super Bowl III in the 1969 season.
Ocean City graduate Doug Colman played linebacker and special teams for Tennessee in the Titans' 23-16 loss to St. Louis in Super Bowl XXXIV at the end of the 1999 season in Atlanta's Georgia Dome.
"I didn't really get a chance to take everything in, and that's something I regret," said Colman, who was recently named as the Houston Texans' assistant special-teams coordinator. "We were hustling all over to different events, so I didn't really get a chance to absorb anything until near the end of the game (when Titans' wide receiver Kevin Dyson was tackled just short of the goal line). When the game was over, I told myself not to worry, that we would be back the next year. But I wound up playing for the (Cleveland) Browns."
Manor and the Broncos' "Orange Crush" defense played well against Cowboys quarterback Roger Staubach and rookie running back Tony Dorsett in their Super Bowl, but Denver's offense struggled. Craig Morton threw four interceptions and the offense committed eight turnovers against Dallas' "Doomsday Defense."
Manor recalled the deafening noise at the Superdome - it was the first Super Bowl played indoors - and the excitement that accompanied Denver's first appearance in the game.
But his most vivid memories were the levels of intensity and violence.
"It was the kind of game that took you two weeks to recover," Manor said. "Your levels of concentration and play have to be elevated higher than ever. It's the biggest game on the biggest stage.
"And you never know if you're ever going to make it back there, so I made sure I laid it all on the line. I put every ounce of energy I had into that game. I told myself that I'd be tired tomorrow. They would have to carry me off the field. I left everything I had on that field."
That attitude is what helped Manor overcome adversity to survive and thrive both in the NFL and after his playing days were over.
Manor, who grew up in Bridgeton, spent two years at Pratt Community College in Kansas after high school and then accepted a scholarship to the University of Arkansas to play for Razorbacks coach Frank Broyles. Arkansas' staff included a defensive line coach named Jimmy Johnson, who went on to win two Super Bowls as coach of the Cowboys.
Manor, who was inducted into Arkansas' Hall of Honor in 2011, was drafted in the 15th round by the Jets in 1975 but was released at the end of the preseason and spent that season out of football.
"It came down to me and a six-year veteran (for a roster spot), and they went with the experienced guy," Manor said. "I didn't know if I was going to get another opportunity in the NFL, so I went back to Arkansas and got a job at a Ford dealership selling cars.
"Even after I wound up with Denver, I still sold cars there in the offseason. Players didn't make a lot of money back then - I got a $2,500 signing bonus and my first contract was for $18,000 - so everyone worked a second job."
Denver called and offered him a chance to try out. He made the team in 1976 but suffered a knee injury at the end of the preseason and missed the whole year.
Manor was a key defensive player for the Broncos for the next seven years before being traded to Tampa Bay. He played six games with the Buccaneers as Lee Roy Selmon's backup but was cut and found himself back in Denver for the rest of that season. He returned to the Broncos in 1985, but a severe ankle injury essentially ended his career.
During his tenure in Denver, Seattle was one of the Broncos' biggest rivals. The Seahawks joined the NFL as an expansion franchise in 1976 and joined the AFC West the following year before moving to the NFC in 2002.
"Man, we had some battles with the Seahawks," Manor said. "I played against guys like (quarterback) Jim Zorn, (running back) Curt Warner and (wide receiver) Steve Largent. They were always hard-fought games, especially in the Kingdome (Seattle's former home field).
"I enjoyed everything about my time in Denver. It was so much a part of my life through good times and bad times. It's like a second home to me. And being a part of the 'Orange Crush' was the biggest treat of my career. But as you get older, you find it harder to play at the same level. The game takes a toll on you."
Career-wise, he has fared well after football.
On the advice of a friend, he entered the financial world and has spent the last 27 years working as a financial planner, mainly with Simmons First Investment Group in Little Rock. He still has family and friends in Bridgeton, but his job has prevented him from visiting since 2008.
He's reminded of his NFL career every morning.
"I've got a pair of bad knees and a bad back," Manor said. "When I wake up, I feel like a bowl of Rice Krispies because my body goes 'snap, crackle and pop.' But I'm like an old car. Sooner or later, I get better. I may sputter a little in the morning, but eventually I run pretty smooth."
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