They come by mail to Mark Manges’ home in Cumberland — weathered copies of a 1976 Sports Illustrated magazine, begging the autograph of the Maryland quarterback on the cover. Manges peers at the photo, scrawls his name and sends it back.
“I get several of these a year to sign,” Manges said of that Oct. 4 issue. “Are they valuable? My nephew went on eBay and learned you could order one for $2 — but that the postage was $3.”
Has it been 41 years since Manges took the Terps to national acclaim? As a junior, he led Maryland to 11 straight victories, a No. 4 ranking and a berth in the Cotton Bowl, where it lost to Houston. Accolades followed; Manges, who passed for 1,145 yards and rushed for 448 more, was named third-team All-America and first-team All-Atlantic Coast Conference — the last Terps quarterback so honored by either the ACC or the Big Ten.
The Terps rallied around the 6-foot-3, 220-pound Manges, who’d prepped at Fort Hill, in Cumberland, helping that storied team go undefeated his senior year. A perennial football power, Fort Hill has won four straight Class 1A championships. On game days, Manges, 61, does the color on radio broadcasts. He still lives within shouting distance of the school.
“It’s all about tradition,” he said. “There are 52 concrete steps leading from the school to the football field and, from the time he’s five years old, all a kid from south Cumberland dreams about is coming down those 52 steps.”
Manges did it, became a high school All-American and received more than 125 scholarship offers, plus a visit from Penn State coach Joe Paterno. But Maryland won out — “I had a strong allegiance to my home state,” Manges said — and thrived with him at the helm.
As a sophomore, Manges passed for four touchdowns, a school record, in the Terps’ opener, 41-0 over Villanova. Afterward, to the media, he toyed with his head coach, Jerry Claiborne. “He’s a worrier,” Manges said. “He’s lost a lot of hair the last couple years. I hope to be able to stop that.”
The next week, against Tennessee, Manges suffered a shoulder separation while catching a pass — his only college reception — and missed the next five games. But he stormed back in 1976, a headstrong junior who led Maryland to four straight wins and a No. 7 ranking when that magazine hit the stands.
“I was walking to practice when I saw some of the guys, outside the team house, reading the article,” Manges recalled. “I said, ‘Let me see the cover.’ They ignored me. Finally, one said, ‘Here, Manges,’ and tossed me the magazine. I was speechless.”
His teammates, however, were not.
“I was razzed about it then, and still am,” he said. “When I see the guys at tailgate parties, they say, ‘What did you do to deserve that?’ They lay it on me pretty good.”
The Terps rolled behind Manges, a running quarterback who barreled fearlessly into defenders.
“My dad always said, ‘If someone’s going to tackle you, punish him, too,’ ” he said. “Then people aren’t so enthused about taking you on.”
Maryland rode a 15-game winning streak into the Cotton Bowl where it lost, 30-21, to Houston. The Cougars led, 27-7, before the fourth-ranked Terps stormed back.
“We came out on the field a little star-struck,” said Manges, who completed 17 of 32 passes, two for touchdowns. “We totally outplayed Houston in the second half, but couldn’t get all the way back.”
It would be his last hurrah. A preseason Heisman Trophy candidate in 1977, Manges suffered a foot injury in the first game and a broken hand in the fifth. A fourth-round pick in the NFL draft by the Los Angeles Rams, he spent one year with the St. Louis Cardinals, where he saw action in one contest — the 1978 finale against the Atlanta Falcons. Near game’s end, Manges entered and handed off on a running play. One snap. No more.
“I get stuff in the mail about this NFL concussion class action lawsuit,” he said. “I’m, like, no, I don’t think I qualify.”
A realtor now, he has no regrets.
“If I hadn’t been hurt, if I’d had a football career, who knows what kind of head trauma I would have experienced?” Manges said. “I might be a lot worse than having had one knee replacement and joints that ache when a low pressure system comes through the mountains. I’ve got my health and my faculties, and I’m thankful to the Lord for that.”
And the Sports Illustrated cover?
“That’s one of the biggest blessings I could have received. I’ll always cherish that,” he said. “It brings back memories of what we had at Maryland in the mid-1970s, a close-knit team that won three straight ACC championships and went to six straight bowl games. Doesn’t get any better than that.”