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UBC football star turning heads in lead up to NFL draft

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At 6'8" and 350 pounds, there is nothing typical about UBC offensive lineman Giovanni Manu, who was born in Tonga and went to high school in Pitt Meadows.

"Humble beginnings. I was born and raised there until the age of 10 and then migrated with my siblings here to this great city of Vancouver, Canada," Manu said in an interview with CTV News.

Blessed with a rare combination of size and agility, even by National Football League standards, Manu has drawn the interest of several teams ahead of next weekend's NFL draft.

Sixteen teams showed up to see him workout at UBC's pro day, where he ran a 5.03-second 40-yard dash and completed 23 bench-press reps of 225 pounds.

Several other clubs hosted Manu on official team visits, including the New York Giants, New England Patriots, and the defending Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs.

"I got to see Andy Reid, and he's kind of a character," Manu said about meeting the Chiefs head coach.

He arrived on campus at UBC when he was just 16 years old and credits the Thunderbirds coaching staff with helping him grow as a person and develop into an NFL prospect.

"Coach (Blake) Nill, he's like a father figure to me. And even my positional coach, Dan Dorazio. They're great guys," he said. "I cherish the six years that I've been here. It's definitely something I'll always remember and tell my kids in the future."

Manu lived with his aunt in Pitt Meadows and his parents still live in Tonga.

They've never seen him play football, which is something he hopes to rectify if he makes it onto an NFL field.

As a prospect, he is considered a bit of a project and is likely to be selected in the mid-to-late rounds of the draft.

"When you have 16 teams that came up to his pro day, and another 11 that brought him in for visits, and even more than that who are having private workouts with him, everybody knows who this kid is now, and they all know that there is scary potential there," said TSN NFL insider Farhan Lalji.

In part because he has only played against Canadian competition at the USports level, Lalji suspects Manu may start his NFL career on a team's practice roster.

"But I don't think it's going to take long until we see this guy in the National Football League," Lalji said. "It's not a question of if, but when."

Just a few months ago, Manu and his Thunderbird teammates beat the Alberta Golden Bears on a last-second touchdown to win the Hardy Cup.

A few months down the road, he could find himself competing for a more famous piece of football hardware: the NFL's Vince Lombardi Trophy.

"I'm ready for it. If that happens to come my way in my first year, I'll attack it the same way I approached the Canada West championship here, I'll be well-prepared for it and it will be really exciting," Manu said.

He has a chance to take the first step on that journey at next weekend's draft.  

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