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Martez Manuel: The New Leader of Mizzou’s Defense

After some high profile departures, freshly named captain Martez Manuel is primed to be the new leader of the 2021 Tiger defense

NCAA Football: Kentucky at Missouri Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

Martez Manuel burst onto the scene last year in Week 1 when the Tigers faced the eventual National Champions, the Alabama Crimson Tide. He registered 3.5 TFL and looked like he was flying all over the field.

Playing in a hybrid Safety/Linebacker role for most of the season, Manuel stood out as one of the better performers on the 2020 defense, however, 2021 poses a new challenge for him.

After recently being voted a captain for the 2021 season, it’s clear that Manuel’s teammates are looking to him to lead a revamped defense this year after key departures on that side of the ball, and he’s relishing the opportunity.

“Being a captain means a lot to me,” said the junior Safety. “I was shocked and honored that my teammates thought of me in that way.”

Despite his new title, however, Manuel doesn’t want it to impact his relationships with his teammates. “A lot of my teammates have called me captain or cap, but I don’t want that,” he explained, “I want them to treat me the exact same way they treated me before. I feel like I was a leader long before I was [named] a captain.”

While his leadership role in name is relatively new, Manuel is right that his leadership has long been on display within Mizzou Football. In the Summer of 2020, Manuel, along with a few other players, were some of the key people that helped put on the Mizzou Athletics March for Mizzou that kickstarted the #Mizzou4Change movement many athletes featured on their warmups prior to athletic events in 2020.

As captain, Manuel will be expected to continue that off-the-field leadership, but his on-field role will now be more important than ever. With Nick Bolton, Josh Bledsoe, and Tyree Gillespie off to the NFL, Manuel is now among the most experienced members of the second-level of the Tiger defense.

However, even with all of his experience, Manuel still knows that moving to a more traditional Safety role is going to be a change for him, “I feel like last year I was more of an Outside Linebacker instead of a Safety, so I have focused on my coverage this offseason.”

Only time will tell if Manuel can fill the shoes that his predecessors have left, but for now the Tigers look to be in safe hands as they prepare for Central Michigan in Week 1.