After months of preparation, Manhertz signs with Bills

Chris Manhertz posted a picture of himself signing a contract with the Bills.

Chris Manhertz posted a picture of himself signing a contract with the Bills.

By Nick Veronica

Former Canisius basketball player Chris Manhertz had a tryout with the Buffalo Bills in April and signed a reserve/futures contract with the team on Tuesday.

His version of this story is short and sweet.

“It wasn’t really out of the blue,” Manhertz said Tuesday after watching Canisius beat UMKC, 67-52. “At some point I was going to get reevaluated and I went in and did what I needed to do [on Tuesday]. They liked what they saw and they signed me.”

Manhertz would have no problem letting you believe things were really that simple. He doesn’t like talking about how hard he’s worked for this. But make no mistake: the degree of difficulty was high. The work was hard. And it’s nowhere near finished.

Manhertz

Manhertz

Manhertz had offers to play basketball in Israel and Germany after college but passed them up to focus on football. His last eight months have been dedicated to it.

Manhertz’s brother, Omari, is a defensive lineman at Division II American International College, but Chris never played organized football. He spent his summer studying under Canisius High School football coaches, learning the complexities of the tight end position, and working out at Absolute Performance in the Eastern Hills Mall.

“We watched a ton of film,” Canisius head coach Rich Robbins said. “I just taught him kind of Football 101 — gaps and zones, coverages, how to run routes. We did all that classroom work and then Marty and Matt Glose helped him on the field, ran him through routes, did a lot of stuff with him. They were putting helmets on and running routes against each other, getting off of press coverage.

“He was real humble about it,” Robbins added. “He said, ‘Listen, I don’t know anything about football, I’ve never played football,’ so we started from scratch. I showed him some Wheatley film, some things at tight end, watched some Canisius film with him and then went on the white board.” (T.J. Wheatley is Canisius’ high-profile tight end recruit.)

Manhertz was connected to the Canisius coaches through his agent, Ron Raccuia, a Canisius College booster and a member of Canisius High School’s Board of Trustees who also represents players such as Fred Jackson, Brian Moorman and Terrence McGee and is the president of ADPRO Sports.

[WATCH: Chris Manhertz destroys K.J. Rose]

Robbins said Manhertz was a great student.

“The guy was there early every day and always wanted to stay after,” Robbins said. “I’d be getting text messages from my wife, we’d all have other stuff to do and he’d be like ‘Hey, how do I run this route, what am I doing here,’ so he was just great.”

Manhertz is 6-foot-5 and was a muscular 235 pounds at the start of his senior season. He said he is now up to 255.

But his athleticism was never in question. People really want to know one thing about him: Can he catch?

“He has gigantic hands and he uses them really well. The guy catches everything,” Robbins said. “He’s got great hands. I was really impressed. When he shakes your hand, his hand, like, wrapped around my hand, and I’m not a small dude.”

So how does he project as a pro?

“He has all the physical tools,” Robbins said. “Blocking and speed of the game, it’s going to be how he adapts to that. The physicality and speed of the game at the NFL level is unbelievable. Coming from basketball to football is a huge transition from that standpoint.

“The parts of basketball that translate to football … he was great with that stuff, it was really stance and start and specific football techniques and learning how to run routes and how to use your feet, those were the types of things we focused on.”

[TRUE GRIT: When Chris Manhertz gets his tenacity]

Manhertz said it still hadn’t really sunk in yet that he signed an NFL contract.

“I worked my tail off for months to try to get this done,” he finally admitted. “This is news I expected, personally, knowing how much time I had put in.

“I knew there was interest there, I just had to really sit down and put the time in and really get better. The more I trained, the more I felt comfortable with how I was going to do and how I was going to make a second impression. It went well.”

Manhertz got a locker, an ID badge and a tour of the Bills facility on Tuesday.

“My foot is in the door,” he said. “I have to go through camps, OTAs, that’s a whole other beast. I won’t have my big sigh of relief until after that.”

As they say, hard work has its rewards: more hard work.

“I’m going in there [Wednesday],” Manhertz said. “Now is when the real work begins.”

Postgame video: Canisius 67, UMKC 52

By Nick Veronica

Canisius coach Jim Baron


“We’re resilient and we can fall back on defending,” Jim Baron said of what he’s learned so far about his team. “But we have to keep getting better. Our bench has to become a lot more consistent. We’re going to need to play a lot of guys the way we play.”

Baron had some good advice for former Griff Jordan Heath, who is playing professionally in Belgium: “It’s not how much [money] you make, it’s how much you keep.”

Canisius guard Zach Lewis


“We defended and we rebounded. Those are things coach tells us every single day. Defense and rebounding — that’s the only way we’re going to win games.”

Canisius forward Phil Valenti


“Guys are playing real active, and that’s the key on defense. When you’re lazy, it’s easier for them to get to the rim. But when you’re active it makes them force up bad shots.”

UMKC did not meet with the media.

Immediate reactions: Canisius 67, UMKC 55

UMKC 23 32 — 55
Canisius 31 36 — 67

By Nick Veronica

How it happened: Phil Valenti, Zach Lewis and Josiah Heath provided 43 of Canisius’ 67 points and the Griffs held their opponent to 60 points and fewer for the eighth time in 11 games this season. All 11 Griffs scored, including the first collegiate points for Cassidy Ryan.

What it means: Canisius goes to 7-4 and 4-0 at the Koessler Athletic Center while UMKC is now 5-10. Canisius finishes its nonconference schedule with a 5-4 record, marking the third straight year the team has had a winning record outside of the MAAC.

Canisius currently leads the MAAC at 2-0, along with Monmouth and Fairfield. Monmouth comes to the KAC on Jan. 2.

It was over when: Zach Lewis missed a three-pointer badly at the end of the shot clock late in the second half, but Jamal Reynolds got the rebound and made a nice move around a defender before getting hammered on the layup attempt. He got the bucket to fall and the free throw to put Canisius up 60-50 with 2:26 remaining.

Pros in the house: Two professional former Griffs were in the house: new Buffalo Bill Chris Manhertz (who is at most games) and Jordan Heath, who is playing professionally in Belgium.

No place like home: The Griffs are now 3-0 on their five-game homestand, which is the team’s longest homestand since having five straight home games during in 1993-94.

Hair cut needed:

Starters: Canisius– Jan Grzelinski, Zach Lewis, Phil Valenti, Jamal Reynolds, Josiah Heath. UMKC — Martez Harrison, Frank WIlliams, Reese Holliday, Darius Austin, Thaddues Smith.

Next: Canisius’ homestand continues on Friday, Jan. 2 when MAAC play reopens with a 7 p.m. contest against Monmouth.