GREEN BAY — Terrell Manning didn’t grow up dirt poor, but he wasn’t that far from it living in the small home he shared with his large family in North Carolina.
The Green Bay Packers’ rookie linebacker was raised in a four-bedroom, two-bathroom mobile home with his parents and seven siblings in Laurinburg, N.C. His mother and stepfather still live there with his four brothers plus two young cousins adopted into the family.
So when he had to decide whether it was time to leave North Carolina State and embark on a professional career, Manning had extra incentive to declare early for the NFL draft this year even though the league’s advisory board told him he’d probably be a fifth-round pick.
“I wouldn’t say it’s the biggest reason. I’d say it was one of the reasons,” Manning said Sunday at the close of the Packers’ rookie orientation camp. “I came out because I was ready to go. I did about everything I could do at N.C. State.”
Manning had thought he might go as high as the third round, but some of his disappointment was soothed when Packers general manager Ted Thompson traded two seventh-round picks plus a sixth-rounder to get into the fifth round to select him. Thompson usually is loath to give up extra draft picks.
“It made me feel like I was wanted,” Manning said.
And now that he’s signed a four-year contract after spending the last four years in relative comfort as a scholarship football player at a major university, Manning doesn’t look back at life in that crowded trailer as a difficult time.
“It’s a lot of people (in a small house), but you learn to value things in your family and to share,” Manning said. “I wouldn’t say we were deprived. My mom and dad made do. I felt like we were well off.”
As she did when he was growing up, Manning’s mother, Daphne, drives a school bus to Scotland High School, which he attended. His stepfather, Robert, who helped raise Manning since he was a child and whom he considers his father, is a landscaper. Manning’s three older sisters have moved out of the home, but his four brothers and two adopted sisters remain in the home.
Although details of Manning’s new four-year contract aren’t available yet, the deal probably is worth slightly more than the $2.2 million contract signed by the same No. 163 pick overall last year. That included a signing bonus of $160,300.
“I’ll probably just set it to the side and forget about it,” Manning said of his bonus. “I’m not looking to retire my family off the bonus. But if they need help, they know I’m there. My mom and dad are still working, but eventually they’d like to retire, and I’d like to help them. I’m not looking to live an extravagant lifestyle.”
Manning entered the draft after his strong recovery from arthroscopic knee surgery early last season on the same knee he had surgically rebuilt during his senior year of high school. Last season, he injured the knee in N.C. State’s third game and missed two weeks, then returned and had a sack and 11 tackles against Central Michigan.
“From that point on, he was our most productive player on defense,” said Mike Archer, N.C. State’s defensive coordinator and a former assistant coach with the Pittsburgh Steelers from 1996 to 2002.
In the final eight games after returning from surgery, Manning had five sacks, 11 tackles for loss and 55 tackles total. Over the last two seasons combined, he had 10 sacks and 25 tackles for loss.
Archer coached the Steelers’ linebackers in essentially the same 3‑4 defensive scheme the Packers play under coordinator Dom Capers. He said he used Manning in similar roles in N.C. State’s 4-3 defense. He lined up Manning all across the front seven and occasionally even had his hand down as an outside rusher.
The Packers are playing Manning at inside linebacker. Capers called Manning’s ability as a blitzer especially appealing. Archer said the Packers also will like Manning’s awareness.
“He knew who was trying to block him (when he blitzed),” Archer said. “Most guys in college don’t know that. He understands who’s blocking him, so you can have an intelligent conversation about how to beat the block.
“He understands fire-zone blitz concepts. He’s going to understand what they’re doing up there.”