Jason Manson returns to Hawkeyes with hopes of preparing athletes for life after football

Manson was an Iowa football player from 2002-06 and is back with the program as director of player development.


Joseph Cress/Iowa City Press-Cit

Iowa director of player development Jason Manson speaks to reporters during a Hawkeyes football summer media availability, Wednesday, July 14, 2021, at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City, Iowa.

Robert Read, Summer Editor

Life after football, at first, wasn’t as glamorous as Jason Manson once thought it would be.

The former Hawkeye football player, best known for backing up Drew Tate at quarterback, wrapped up his college tenure in 2006. Within two years, Manson had a child on the way and was struggling to find work after graduation.

But waiting for a shot at a professional football career quickly turned into finding whatever work he could take — first with Verizon Wireless.

“My wife would probably kill me if I told the story,” Manson said. “We were boyfriend and girlfriend at the time. I was still waiting for calls and trying to figure out if an agent is doing his job, stuff like that. We had a kid on the way and I wasn’t working, I was kind of just training. Long story short, the TV got broken and I ended up working.”

In May, 15 years after Manson last played in the Black and Gold, he returned to the program.

Head coach Kirk Ferentz, who Manson played under from 2002-06, announced in May that Manson had been hired as the football program’s new director of player development.

“I am happy to bring Jason Manson back to our program in this capacity,” Ferentz said in the release announcing the hire. “Jason was a valued team member and leader during his Iowa career. His perspective and experience since graduation will be a great benefit to our players in his new role.”

The director of player development “serves as a guide for student-athletes as they transition from high school to college, supporting their academic and football successes while creating a positive and memorable college experience,” according to the job description provided by the program.

Manson said July 14 that this was his third time applying for a position with the Hawkeyes, but sees the role he’s been hired for as his best fit with the program.

The father of three only started one game at quarterback for Iowa, and transitioned to playing wide receiver to see the field more often. After college, Manson played only one year of professional indoor football. He believes his experiences from his playing career can provide value to current and future Hawkeyes.

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“My experience wasn’t a glorified one I would say,” Manson said. “Especially from a playing perspective. Nevertheless, I had a good college experience. Being able to give that to kids in the program is definitely something I can add. What I want to add is the after-football-is-over element to it. I’m trying to add that perspective from being a player in the program and then figuring life out after.”

Manson compared being recruited to and then playing at a college football program to being like a “horse with blinders.”

Every player expects to go to the NFL, Manson said, when the focus oftentimes should be on networking and preparing for life after playing.

“Your goal was to come through here, graduate and make it to the NFL,” Manson said. “And if that doesn’t happen, what’s next? You kind of just fall off a cliff. But with the structure that’s in place, you utilize those the right way and build a network, you’ll be fine. Most employers like the worth ethic and the discipline and those things that come with being a student-athlete. You just have to figure out how to use that different element.”

After his time with the Hawkeyes — and a stint with Verizon — Manson worked as a wide receivers coach at Becker College in 2007. The next year, he held the same position at Western Connecticut State before becoming offensive coordinator at the Milford Academy.

The Bloomfield, Connecticut, native then served as a position coach at Central Connecticut State from 2010-14 before a stint at Capital Preparatory Magnet School from 2014-18, when he also served as the school’s director of college and career readiness.

In 2018-19, he held the position as student management assistant at Greater Hartford Academy of the Arts and head football coach at Capital Prep.

Chris Ejiasi was the first person to hold the director of player development role within the Hawkeye football program, doing so from 2008-16. Broderick Binns held the position after Ejiasi until he became the director of diversity, equity, and inclusion for Hawkeye Athletics in 2020. Sam Brinks had been interim director of player development since last summer. Manson said Binns will be a helpful resource to use as he continues to adjust to his role.

Manson, a Black man, joins a program that is still in the middle of a racial discrimination lawsuit, and that last summer reached a separation agreement with strength coach Chris Doyle after dozens of former Hawkeyes accused Doyle of racist and demeaning behavior.

Manson said he didn’t feel like he experienced many “horrible racial interactions” during his playing time at Iowa. But he still wants to create a comfortable environment within the football program and be a resource for athletes now and in the future.

“I’ve been able to progress and achieve goals, so I think that’s important for guys that are in the program to see what is achievable, is something that can be done,” Manson said. “I’m hoping that I can just add a little bit more perspective, and be a positive influence on the young Black men in the program.”