Former coach of Lions' fourth-round reach naturally heaps big praise on him

Giovanni Manu is making a big leap to the NFL, and his college head coach has, as expected, praised him highly.

Going into Day 3 of the 2024 NFL Draft, the chances the Detroit Lions were going to trade into the fourth round felt strong. Otherwise, it was going be just over 100 selections between picks for them.

Indeed, at pick No. 126, the Lions replaced the New York Jets on the clock. They gave up a 2025 third-round pick to get into that spot, then they pulled a stunner and took University of British Columbia offensive tackle Giovanni Manu.

Manu was not among the top-300 in most prospect rankings for this year's draft class, and the Lions took him with a pick just outside the top-125. He was a late riser in the pre-draft process, with a full schedule of visits as the time to have pre-draft visits wound down. He had an outstanding Pro Day, running a 40-yard dash within a nose either side of 5.0 seconds (depending on the source) and a 33.5-inch vertical jump at 6-foot-7 and 352 pounds.

Manu played left tackle and left guard in college, but the Lions plan to move him to guard-and right guard for that matter, apparently. So his transition to the NFL, after naturally dominating his college competition, will also come with a position change. And a move to the other side of the offensive line from the one he played in college.

Giovanni Manu's college coach naturally praises Lions' fourth-round reach

Manu, more than anything, is a great unknown as he comes into the NFL. Maybe he ends up developing into a future starter, alongside Penei Sewell as seems to be planned right now. Or maybe we're not even talking about him two years from now.

Nolan Bianchi of the Detroit News talked to Blake Nill, the head coach at the University of British Columbia and Manu's head coach in college.

Nill discovered Manu when he was a high school basketball prospect, and saw a projectable football talent. He said the Lions are the "right organization" for Manu, among general praise for his former player.

Nill pulled no punches in his bottom-line praise of Manu.

"I've been telling scouts for two years, he's the best football athlete in our country," Nill said.

"I've coached a long time and have had several NFL linemen, and I always felt that Giovanni Manu is the top athlete in our country in football, given everything about him, his size and raw athletic ability. I knew somewhere, some GM and some organization would have to recognize that this kid is going to end up being something that's so special."

"I truly believe — I've coached 34 years, been a head coach for 29 or something, this kid is as good as I've ever seen in Canada. He's gonna be something, boy."

There have been players who've made a strong transition to the NFL from football in Canada (college, or pro in the CFL). Time will tell if Manu adds himself to the list, but being tabbed the "best football athlete" in Canada is also not very meaningful.

A big grain of salt generally has to be taken when a former coach praises a player, and Nill is no different here with his comments on Manu. But the actual bottom lines can't be ignored right now.

There's a whole lot of projection in Manu's NFL future, until he shows otherwise. The range of outcomes is wider than what you'd ideally have in a fourth-round pick that also cost you a top-100 overall pick next year to go get.


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