During a recent recruiting visit to Colorado, Khairi Manns knew right away that the program now led by head coach Deion Sanders would be about discipline and work.
“When I met Coach Prime, you could tell he was purely on business,” said Manns, an edge defenseman who transferred to CU from Maine. “The first thing he said to me before we said hello or whatever was going on was chew gum and I walked into his office and he said, ‘Stop smacking that gum.’ You just see it’s business It’s a time to play but it’s also a time to work And when we’re at work put your head down and get to work I just respect for.”
After four seasons in Maine, the six-foot-tall Manns is eager to join the new Buffalos and play for Sanders and the staff Sanders has assembled.
“First, you have Prime Time as your head coach,” Manns said of why he chose CU. “You have Charles Kelly as (defensive coordinator), coach Nick Williams as my position coach and coach (Sal) Sunseri. The knowledge of the game they have, I’m a learner of the game so I really love that. I just want to get all the knowledge and I know Coach Kelly will put his players in the best position to succeed.”
Manns, who joined CU on Monday and has two seasons left to play, was re-shirted in Maine in 2019 and has played in each of the Black Bears’ 26 games over the past three seasons, making 15 starts. In his collegiate career, he has had 108 tackles, 15 tackles for loss and 8.5 sacks. In 2022, he had 43 tackles, 6.5 tackles for loss and four sacks.
Listed as a defensive lineman in Maine, Manns will likely play on the edge in Colorado, though he doesn’t label himself in any spot.
“I play defensively. I’ll put it this way,” he said. “But I like to rush the passerby.”
Last bagged in the country last year, CU needs pass rushers and loaded into that spot this offseason. Sanders and his staff have brought in nine fullbacks as transfers. Manns is excited about the match.
“We all just go to work, bow our heads and go to work and then the smoke will clear,” he said.
Manns was a two-time all-state player at New Rochelle (NY) High School before his time in Maine and said he grew to love defense early in his football career.
“I was a lineman (as a youth); I was a big boy,” he said. “And then I started growing into my body and things started to become more natural in a way. Like in 10th grade, I saw that in defense you make your own plays. I don’t need this person to do that. I can make my own plays. … I’m going to the quarterback, I have to do that myself. Once I started having fun sacking the quarterback and rushing the passer, I really started to grow into myself as a pass rusher.
It took some time to develop in Maine, however, as he rejoined his freshman year. He is grateful for his time in Maine and the lessons he learned along the way.
“My experience in Maine was wonderful,” he said. “It taught me a lot about myself, taught me a lot as a football player. It helped me grow and it showed me how to be more resourceful and innovative. … I couldn’t be more thankful for what Maine has done for me.”
Now he’s ready for a new challenge as he jumps from an FCS program to one of the most intriguing Power 5 programs in the country.
“I’ve always seen myself as this type of player,” he said. “I have always known my worth. It didn’t turn out the way I wanted after high school, but it’s turning out the way I want it now. I’m not really too nervous or too anxious or anything. I’m just going to put my head down and work and once you work everything will blossom.
Manns is excited to have his next chapter unfold at CU, where he has already come to appreciate the coaches, the facilities, the scenery and everything else about the challenge.
“(Coming to CU) was just a great opportunity I had and you just can’t pass up something like that,” he said.