Terrell Manning went into training camp in July with the Green Bay Packers with the hopes of making the team and living out his NFL dream. Manning, a fifth-round pick by the Packers in April, left NC State in the spring as a junior to live out that dream and was excited to be drafted by a championship-caliber team. Part of Manning’s success on the field as a linebacker for NC State was predicated on his skilled anticipation. Anticipation of the run coming and attacking it. Anticipation of a quarterback’s pass coming at him and getting his hands up for an interception, like he did in the Wolfpack’s win against Louisville in last year’s Belk Bowl.
But on the eve of his NFL dream coming true, something failed Manning that he couldn’t anticipate — his health.
When Manning first got into camp with the Packers, he started dropping weight off his 6-foot-2 inch, 237- pound frame. That was strange for the Laurinburg, N.C., native, who says he usually gains weight in camp.
Then the sleepless nights started. What began as a loss of appetite became a fixed inability to eat. And he couldn’t stop using the bathroom. At its worst, he thought he was dying. “I’ve never had anything like it,” Manning says. “I’m laying in the bathroom, holding my stomach, and there’s nothing I can do about it.”
Initially, Manning thought “it” was just a bug going around camp. But his health deteriorated so much over a three-week span that one night he went to the emergency room. The doctors did scans. They tested for cancer and Crohn’s disease, a debilitating bowel disease. They finally discovered that he had a parasite that had caused his large intestine to swell and got him on the right medication.
But all the while through the sickness and waiting, Manning was trying to make the Packers’ 53-man roster. He never missed one of the Packers’ 20-plus practices or one of their preseason games. The night he went to the emergency room, he says, he was discharged early the next morning and was back at practice at 7 a.m. as if nothing happened.
“I didn’t say anything to any of my teammates,” Manning says, adding that his coaches and the team’s medical staff did know what was happening and offered their support. “To me it was no excuse. I wasn’t going to sit out. I came in with an ambitious mind and great intensity. …I still had that young, hot-out-of-NC State mentality. It didn’t matter. I was still going to make plays.”
Manning, in fact, made enough plays to make the team. He was notified last week while he was on the sidelines of at the NC State-Tennessee game in Atlanta through congratulatory texts from Packers teammates. He says it’s an honor to make the team and a relatively easy transition going from being part of the Pack to a Packer.
But when asked what gave Manning a greater sense of relief, securing a roster spot or getting an answer on his health, he doesn’t pause. “Definitely knowing that I would be healthy,” he says. “I’m glad to be a Packer, but I am glad to be healthy.”
Manning and the Green Bay Packers take on the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday in the first week the NFL regular season.