ABILENE -- Former ACU defensive back Danieal Manning on Saturday became the first Wildcat player drafted into the NFL in 21 years when he was selected by the Chicago Bears with the 10th pick of the second round of the annual NFL Draft.
Manning was the 42nd player taken overall (10th in the second round), and was the Bears' first selection of the day after they traded out of the first round, picking up an extra second-round selection from the Buffalo Bills.
That extra pick turned out to be Manning, who is the first Wildcat to be drafted since offensive lineman Dan Remsberg was taken by San Diego in the sixth round of the 1985 draft.
Manning is the second-highest Wildcat to be drafted, following wide receiver Johnny Perkins, who was taken with the 32nd pick of the 1977 NFL Draft (second round) by the New York Giants. Manning is the 30th former Wildcat to be drafted, and is one of five players to be drafted in the top 100 picks.
"Ever since I was young, I knew I wanted to play at the NFL level," said Manning, who bypassed his senior season to enter the draft. "I've been telling my family for years that this is what I wanted to do. When I saw my name go across the bottom of the television screen, I just said to myself, 'Yeah, it's time.' "
Manning was one of two defensive backs the Bears chose in the second round on Saturday as they later used the 57th pick of the draft to select Miami (Fla.) cornerback Devin Hester. Manning's agent, Russell Hicks, said Chicago scouts told him that Manning would be used at safety in the Bears' scheme, while Hester is a cornerback.
Both players, however, are dangerous return men, something the Bears needed in their special teams units.
"You can't have enough speed and you can't have enough good athletes on your team," Bears director of college scouting Greg Gabriel said. "These were guys we had earmarked over the last couple weeks, knowing that if we traded down these were the guys we were looking to get and we were fortunate enough to get them. With both guys, we've added speed, and that's going to scare other teams."
Manning's selection by the Bears was secured a few weeks ago when head coach Lovie Smith flew to Texas and worked out Manning himself at Corsicana High School.
"Getting the chance to meet Coach Smith was great," Manning said. "He taught me a lot of things that I've been working on, and he told me what he would expect of me if they drafted me."
Apparently Smith saw enough of the 12-time all-America defensive back to convince him to use the team's first selection on a Division II safety.
"He's an outstanding player with a lot of ability," Smith said of Manning. "He has safety size but pretty close to corner-type ability. He's raw; we realize that. I know he's from a smaller college, but we think he has a lot of talent that we can work with and develop him into a pretty good football player."
Bears general manager Jerry Angelo was excited to add a player of Manning's game-breaking ability to what was the league's No. 1 defense in 2005, a year that saw the Bears finish 11-5 and win the NFC North Division.
"There's always a bigger step (with Division II players), but we saw him quite a bit," Angelo said. "We did a lot of work on him. He has very strong traits. He's a very talented player and we want to get more speed in our secondary. We felt that he was the right match for us.
"He really had been on our radar all along," he said of Manning. "When we saw him at the East-West Game, we really liked a lot of the things he did. We like his competitiveness, his work ethic and what he brings in terms of his physical traits. That's what in the end made our decision."
Manning's 2005 junior season was the continuation of one of the great careers in the history of ACU football. Manning finished the season with 49 tackles (33 solo), two tackles for loss, one sack, four pass breakups, two forced fumbles, one fumble recovery and three blocked kicks. It was his blocked punt late in the fourth quarter against Northeastern State on Sept. 10 that led directly to a score that allowed the Wildcats to rally from a 14-0 deficit with less than eight minutes to play to beat the Redmen, 20-14, in overtime.
The versatile Manning also returned 19 punts for 243 yards (12.8 yard average) and one touchdown, and returned 13 kickoffs for 349 yards (26.8 yard average) and one score. He also ran the ball nine times for 20 yards and caught five passes for 28 yards. Manning scored 10 touchdowns in his career, including a school-record five on special teams returns. He scored a touchdown via pass reception, kickoff return, punt, fumble return and interception return.
Manning -- a three-time first team all-region selection -- led the Wildcats in interceptions with three and returned one for a 35-yard touchdown against Central Oklahoma. Earlier this year he was named first team all-Lone Star Conference South Division for the third straight season, and in August he was the only active ACU player named to school's all-Century Team.