So I’m idly leafing through someone’s scrapbook, thusly:
And suddenly here appears a guy, ninety-one years ago, just hanging out with his boys, relaxing with a little with a nice game of leap frog and the next thing you know he’s grabbed by the track coach and dragooned into competition:
It doesn’t look like it stuck for long, though. Manuel isn’t listed as a member of the track team after this but he was a pretty big deal in other ways. He belonged to the Rally Club (which might explain the leapfrog) and was president of the band and a saxophonist in Lee’s Owls. I think he’s fourth from left:
He also turns up in this image from Homecoming in 1951, where he organized a Lee’s Owls reunion:
Bonus: Here’s the sharp-eyed and sharp dressed Coach Hjertberg, circa 1929.
A search on newspapers.com shows not this original article, but that an Associated Press dispatch about Coach Ernie’s find appeared in papers nationwide — from Brooklyn to Honolulu — from April 22-May 24, 1929.
But an article on page 3 of the April 19, 1929, Thresher written by Stuart Lamkin says that the newspaper’s details aren’t exactly accurate:
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Coach Hjertberg ran up to me and shook a newspaper clipping under my nose.
“Do you write for the Thresher?” he wanted to know.
“Well . . . spasmodically,” I admitted.
“Then for Heaven’s sake, get a spasm and tell them I didn’t do this, and another thing . . .,” he exploded.
“This” was the story about the discovery, by Coach Hjertberg, of Briggs Manuel as broad jump prospect. Part of the story was true—that part about Briggs being engaged in a game of leap-frog when his possibilities were noticed, but the discoverer was not the coach, but was Emmett Brunson, captain of the track team.
And therein lies the moral.
Out of a male student body of seven or eight hundred, it is almost: impossible for there to be as few fellows talented in some phase of track work as there are now out for track.
There is some event on the program of track and field events which is especially adapted to almost every type of physique, but even so, no one is born with the ability to go right out and excel in the event for which he might be suited.
And that is the reason we have coaches. Theirs is the work to develop the natural athletic adaptation which lies dormant in every individual, a work for which Rice’s coach is known as one of the most successful thruout (sic) the world, for more Olympic place winners have been handled by him than by any other one coach.
But with all his genius, he is powerless as long as potential champions refuse to come near the track. He is crying for men to come out and work to replace the vacancies which occur with the Commencement Exercises every year.
Don’t let the fact that you have not heretofore engaged in any track work keep you from reporting, for that means only that you will perhaps have to work a little harder than the fellow who is a bit more experienced, and much sweeter is the victory, earned by hard effort, which comes to him who is the underdog.
The coach said to “Tell them that nothing would please me more than to have every man in school out for track, and if not then everyone can be on the lookout for likely material, and when is it noticed, I should be notified at once.”
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Of course, Emmett Brunson would turn out to be a darned good Rice track coach and judge of athletic talent in his own right.
FTR. Briggs Manuel competed in the broad and high jump in 1929, but is not listed among Rice track letter winners. Lamkin ran the in the 220- and 440-yard dashes and in relays. He earned a letter in 1930.