He had been Manhertz for most of his first 35 games with Carolina after signing with the Panthers midway through the 2016 season. He had only made four catches for 29 yards, prior to the 50-yard touchdown catch, used mostly as a blocking tight end.
But this week, Manhertz has come alive in the passing game, using his 6-6 frame to get leverage in red zone situations.
More passes have been thrown his way partly because second-year tight end Ian Thomas has been sitting out with a rib injury. But Manhertz has been preparing for this opportunity and working hard on his route-running and catching.
“Every year I try to add bits and pieces to my game, both in the run game and the pass game,” Manhertz said. “Every year my goal is to get better in some way, shape or fashion. It’s a matter of getting the opportunity and taking advantage.”
One of the NFL’s all-time best tight ends has taken notice too.
“He’s big, he’s physical. He’s really developed on his receiving stuff,” said Greg Olsen, who currently ranks fifth all-time among tight ends with 666 receptions. “Chris is a smart kid. He’s tough. Considering he had never played before, and the fact that he’s been able to build his career up to this point is really impressive. It’s a credit to him buying in and really wanting to do this. It’s not for everybody, but he’s done an amazing job.”
Oh yeah, that whole “hadn’t played football before” part.
Manhertz has played in 39 career NFL games as a guy that didn’t even play football in college. Or high school. Or…ever.
A native of the Bronx, Manhertz went to Canisius College, a small catholic school in Buffalo where he was a three-year captain on the basketball team, finishing fourth in school history in rebounds. He has unique size and athleticism and the Buffalo Bills gave him a shot as an undrafted free agent in 2015.
“Buffalo was my second home,” Manhertz said. “I spent five years of my life in Buffalo and it will always have a place in my heart. That city and team allowed me to develop and grow. That’s the part that makes this week mean a little bit more. Taking a moment to reflect on where you started and where I am now. Playing well against the Bills in practice and now getting a shot against them on Friday night. Obviously, the Bills gave me my first shot. I’m forever grateful to them for even taking that chance.”
With Thomas not expected to play, and a chance that Olsen’s reps will be limited, Manhertz could see a large number of snaps in both run-blocking and pass-catching situations on Friday.
He might even end up back in the same end zone where Martinez was born.