Athletes overcome adversity in sports, it’s a part of the framework that makes participating, and watching, such an incredible adventure. But Tashawn Manning probably never expected his latest hurdle in life.
Manning, a 17-year-old who committed to Auburn last June, was a hulking 6-foot-4, 276-pound lineman for Wekiva High School in Apopka, Fla. As the season neared its end for the Mustangs, he started experiencing shortness of breath.
His coaches figured anemia led to the problem, but his parents sought professional advice. The results returned on Thanksgiving Day — Cancer. Acute promyelocytic leukemia.
Manning lost about 45 pounds during the first four weeks of chemotherapy. His weight loss eventually stopped and the leukemia began to recede.
“As far as the leukemia cells that were in his bone marrow, before they were saying it was at 100 percent,” Tashawn’s father, Buck Manning, told Wesley Sinor of AL.com. “Now he is down to zero leukemia cells. God bless. He’s been upbeat, he doesn’t do much moping around or feeling sorry for himself. He’s probably taken it way better than I probably would.”
Tashawn is currently in the second round of four chemotherapy stages. Plans to play at Auburn have been put on hold until he makes a full recovery, which could take up to two-and-a-half years.
Auburn has submitted a waiver to the NCAA hoping to freeze Manning’s eligibility until he’s able to make a return to football. Meanwhile, Manning said he hopes to enroll in college classes either online, at Auburn or another local school.
“They support Tashawn 100 percent,” Buck Manning said of Auburn. “They did a really awesome job making sure we don’t worry about the scholarship or football. They’ve made sure the focus is where it’s supposed to be.”
Auburn coach Gus Malzahn and special teams coordinator Scott Fountain took time out of their busy recruiting schedule to visit Manning at his home last week.
Manning also connected with former Auburn offensive lineman Shon Coleman, who battled cancer himself for three years before starting his career on The Plains in 2013. The two have spoken on the phone, and Manning has been inspired by Coleman, who enters the NFL draft this spring.
While Manning continues his battle, his high school set up a golf tournament and the family has raised funds online — totaling more than $15,000 from both local fans and Auburn faithful — for medical expenses.