By Joe Rexrode
Detroit Free Press
The stopwatch might never be Kevonte Martin-Manley’s friend, and the Birmingham Brother Rice product figures that’s why Michigan State never offered him a scholarship.
But the limited ability of a 40 time to project a player’s worth helps explain why Martin-Manley is one of MSU’s top concerns Saturday. And the Iowa junior receiver would love to make it two wins in a row over the Spartans.
“I wouldn’t say it’s personal, but it’s that extra fire, it’s that extra motivation to prove them wrong,” Martin-Manley said. “Because obviously, without the offer they felt I wasn’t good enough to play there.”
Michigan State, which saw Martin-Manley twice in camp, isn’t alone — Iowa was the only Big Ten or BCS-level team to offer a scholarship to the 6-foot, 205-pound wideout with a 4.7 time in the 40. The Spartans also likely aren’t alone in re-evaluating now.
Martin-Manley leads Iowa with 26 catches — 18 more than second place — for 225 yards and a touchdown. And he is No. 2 in the nation with 25.8 yards per punt return. He brought consecutive punts back for touchdowns (83 and 63 yards) against Western Michigan, becoming the first Big Ten player to do so.
“He’s a very good football player,” MSU coach Mark Dantonio said of Martin-Manley. “So obviously (I) wish he was here, but he’s not, so you deal with it.”
Dantonio compared Iowa defensive tackle Carl Davis, a player he did offer, with former MSU star Jerel Worthy. He compared Martin-Manley with former MSU star B.J. Cunningham, and there are clear similarities — Cunningham also was an overlooked recruit with a slow 40 time but the will to make up for it.
“I’ve just been a guy that’s worked on my craft at wide receiver,” Martin-Manley said. “Running routes, catching passes, getting open with my technique. And I feel like I’ve got good game speed, I can make big plays.”
Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said Martin-Manley’s leadership has been invaluable this season. But he’ll need his playmaking as well against MSU’s elite defense. Martin-Manley had six catches for 42 yards in a 19-16 win at MSU last season, some against Darqueze Dennard.
“Dennard, he’s a very good player, I respect him and his game,” Martin-Manley said. “It’s gonna be a lot of fun.”
Category: Iowa Hawkeyes Football