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Finding family, success in the Heart of Virginia

Ben Manis has not had to travel far to find what he was looking for.

He has just finished his fifth season as head coach of the varsity football team at Fuqua School, the same institution at which he was a student from the pre-K level all the way through high school.

Manis, now 28, played football at Fuqua at both the junior varsity (JV) and varsity levels.

Then he went off to school at Bridgewater College but still maintained a presence in the Heart of Virginia even during that time.

He wasted no time in becoming involved with coaching at Fuqua after graduating from college.

“I came back, and I asked the coaches if they had a spot, and the JV coaches had left, had moved on to different jobs and all that kind of stuff. So I kind of got thrown into the fire. I had always kind of been around the program.”

He noted that even after graduating from Fuqua, “I tried to come back and go through camp with the guys, part just to be around the program and part just to keep myself in shape while I was playing college ball. So, I kind of slid in there my first year.”

As a player at Fuqua, he was both a linebacker and an offensive lineman.

“In college, I played linebacker up through my senior year,” he said. “My senior year, I switched to fullback. … I switched to fullback to find some more playing time. I got more special teams playing time when I did that.”

He became interested in football at a young age thanks to his father, who played for Buckingham County High School during a storied playoff run in the 1970s.

“You always hear his stories and you see the guys he played with, and they sit around, talk about it and laugh about it,” Manis said. “It’s just one of those things, at a young age, you kind of pay attention and all of a sudden you kind of fall in love with it.”

Manis played some other sports, including track, soccer and baseball, but “that kind of stuff never really fit me, just wasn’t my thing.”

He noted that in football, “it comes down to who wants it more a lot of times. Athleticism helps, but there’s a lot of times that heart can kind of overcome athleticism. I kind of had to build myself into a player that would be useful to coaches both in high school and in college.”

He said he loves the physicality and the brotherhood that comes with football.

A busy man, coaching football is actually one of his more leisurely activities.

“We’ve got a family farm, so I don’t have a lot of free time,” he said. “… When we have free time, I’ve got an old car that I tinker on, old Mustang that I’ve had since high school, drove it in high school, drove it in college. I enjoy doing that. I’ve got a house from the 1700s that is constantly needing something worked on.”