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August 31, 2013A legitimate case can be made that one of Arizona State's best football recruiters this year isn't even employed by the school.
Make no mistake, Manny Wilkins is putting in work.
Wilkins, a 6-foot-3, 185 pound quarterback at San Marin High School in Novato, Calif., has relentlessly lobbied for the Sun Devils since committing to Todd Graham's program May 30.
From top California prospects like Joe Mixon and Michiah Quick to recruits far removed from his home base and even halfway across the country, Wilkins has made his presence felt.
"I'm talking to the biggest name guys out there, pretty much everyone I met at The Opening, from Joe Mixon on down the list because I think ASU is overlooked," Wilkins said. "I really do. I feel like by me putting myself out there so much and being so behind it, maybe others will be willing to take a look, and that's all we need because the school and the program have so much to offer."
Perhaps no example is more emblematic of Wilkins' efforts than his dialogue this week with Palmdale (Calif.) running back recruit Demario Richard.
Just one day after ASU landed a commitment from high profile running back Darrel Williams, a Rivals250 prospect out of John Ehret High School in Marrero, La., Wilkins was working on reassuring Richard he was still very much in the Sun Devils' plans.
Wilkins could have easily taken a breather to be celebratory, or perhaps become complacent. Instead, just two nights before his season opener and a day after ASU landed its highest profile offensive recruit in the class, he was on the phone trying to get another guy at the same position.
The effort wasn't lost on Richard, a recruit who listed ASU and Washington as co-leaders before the development. Richard lauded Wilkins that night on social media and in a conversation with ASUDevils.com the following day.
"He's just real, man," Richard said. "He has a way of talking to you that just connects with you. He's a real genuine dude. I respect him a lot.
"You want a quarterback who is a leader like that. A guy like that can get everybody together and really help keep a team focused on what it needs to do. And it helps in recruiting too obviously."
Wilkins has been through a lot and isn't afraid to share his story, which includes his father dying at an early age after being involved in drugs and spending time in prison.
It contributed to Wilkins getting off track with his life until he moved from Texas to Northern California to live with his aunt and uncle following his freshman year of high school.
"I just think I have a very open personality. One thing about me is I'm willing to share what I've been through," Wilkins said. "If you want to have a conversation with me, we're going to have a real conversation. There's going to be a moment where it gets real and you're going to be like, 'wow.' You're going to second guess things and take another look from a different angle. And that's a good thing.
"I told (ASU offensive coordinator Mike) Norvell and other coaches and people, 'You will see commitments flip. You will see kids change their minds.' When [recruits] see what we're doing, they will be impressed. And I'm just going to be real with them. Because when you're real with them you get to them, and when you get to them you've got them."
An Elite-11 finalist this summer, Wilkins just missed the final cut but said he took a lot from the experience that will carry him forward.
"I learned a lot about myself," he said. "It let me find who I am. I wasn't going there to learn football as much as I was going there to learn about how to be a man. I think I'm one of the best quarterbacks in the country and showed that. I made a lot of great friendships and that will continue through my career and lifetime.
"There were a lot of great lessons. The main thing I learned is when you're in practice don't just throw the ball around and goof around. Warm up like it's a game. You have to be getting better every single time you throw the football. And not just when you're throwing the football but in everything you do."
That apparently includes recruiting. In a landscape that is more transparent than ever due to social media, Wilkins has set a standard by which others will be evaluated. He said it's his confidence in the direction of the program that gives him the passion to attempt to sway others as he was by Graham and Norvell.
"The boom bus is filling up man and it's only going to get fuller," Wilkins said. "Of course (Rivals100 defensive line commit) Connor Humphreys is great and I think it's obvious why a guy like that would want to go to ASU. It's seeing what Will Sutton has already done. He's predicted to be the top defensive player in the Pac-12. He probably was last year.
"A guy like (Darrel) Williams, it's easy to understand why he'd want to leave [SEC country] to go to ASU even though he has a lot of big offers. Why wouldn't you want to go to ASU after seeing what Marion Grice and D.J. Foster are doing? That's an easy sell. All I'm doing is just helping to deliver that message."
Don't miss any of our comprehensive pre-season coverage of Arizona State football. Visit our fall camp landing page sponsored by Rideout Law for all of our 100-plus content pieces in the team in August. And stay tuned for the release of our 10th annual ASU recruiting "Big Board" which will debut next week. Here is a special preview trailer of what you can look forward to over the next five months.
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