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Cortez lineman Alec Manuel looks to lead Skyhawks resurgence

Friends, family and coaches join Alec Manuel Jr. as he signs to play football at Fort Lewis College next fall. Photo courtesy of Elsie Walck
Montezuma-Cortez senior signs to play football at Fort Lewis College

Offensive lineman Alec Manuel Jr. knows that a front five is only as strong as the weakest link.

After leading an overpowering offensive front for Montezuma-Cortez High School, Manuel looks to be a foundational block for Fort Lewis football as the Skyhawks aim to rise in the ranks in the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference.

“When I met the coaching staff, that was a big selling point for me,” said Manuel of his decision to join FLC, “and the location – being closer to home – helped too.”

The blocking force for the Panthers inked his name to join a prominent FLC recruiting class, as Manuel trades his orange-and-black uniform for navy and gold in Durango.

“It really all started sophomore year,” Manuel said about his college football goals. “I put some film together, sent it out to some schools – I knew I wanted to keep playing, and after junior year, it really started to become a reality.”

Fort Lewis plays Division II football in the rigorous Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference, and the chance to take his game to higher level served as a huge motivator for Manuel.

“College was always in the deal for me,” he said, “but to play football is an added bonus. The opportunity to continue playing a game I love is one of the best feelings I’ve ever had.”

The M-CHS Panthers boasted the program’s best season since the late 1950s, making the postseason for the first time in his high school career, then making the most of it with a memorable semifinal run in Southwest Colorado.

“The coaching staff at M-CHS, with coach Watkins, coach Mack, and coach Horton and all my coaches – they’ve been amazing for me,” said Manuel, “and they’ve really propelled my game forward and prepared me for the next level.”

His steady play from the left tackle position made the Panther offense equally as lethal on the ground as through the air. Behind Manuel’s guidance, the Panthers ran for nearly 2,000 yards in the 2022 season, while passing for more than 1,700.

Manuel’s passion on the gridiron matches his motivation in the classroom, as the Panthers senior aims to pursue an engineering degree, something that he’s been motivated to pursue since early on in his high school career. He credits support from his mother as a big driving force to help him continue going after his passion.

Manuel, likewise, recognizes the special achievement that he was part of for Panthers football in 2022 and hopes that the next group of Panthers carry on the tradition. “I’m hoping that this is just the beginning,” said Manuel, “and that the younger guys are able to keep pushing to achieve even bigger things.”