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Aggie Hall of Fame Spotlight: Manny Acosta

Submitted by Panhandle State Sports Information on 01/28/2017 The 2016 Aggie Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony and Banquet takes place Friday, Feb. 3 at 7 p.m. in the Student Union Ballroom at Panhandle State. The 2016 Aggie Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony and Banquet takes place Friday, Feb. 3 at 7 p.m. in the Student Union Ballroom at Panhandle State.

Goodwell, Okla. —From Douglas, Ariz. to the Goodwell, Okla. Manuel Acosta takes great pride in his time spent at Panhandle State. The four-year member of the Aggie football team will be inducted with three other fellow athletes in the Aggie Hall of Fame on Friday, Feb. 3. Cathy Donald-Whitney, Larry Welch and Frank Beede will join Acosta as the Class of 2016.

Best known by teammates and friends as Manny, Acosta had a common tie to Aggie Football prior to taking his place on the team in 1981. Chris Gerbich, a senior o-lineman at Panhandle in 1980, hailed from the same hometown. That tie brought Assistant Coach Mike Wyatt back to Douglas to recruit Acosta and a teammate. With several walk-on offers on the table, Acosta was thrilled to receive the scholarship opportunity offered by Wyatt and Head Coach Richard Lawrence.

Although recruited as a tight end initially, Acosta shared that he was among eight or nine other players at that position and did not have a ball thrown his direction during pre-season practices. It was the Aggies' defensive coordinator, Doug Orebaugh, who saw the potential for Acosta to fulfill a need on the defensive side of the ball. "Coach Orebaugh asked if I would play defensive end. He saw something in me and that really changed my life."

His first season with the Aggies proved to be one of the most historic teams to date. Undefeated with a 9-0 regular season record, the 1981 football team holds its own spot in the Aggie Hall of Fame (Class of 2014). That year the Aggies earned a spot in the NAIA Division II Quarterfinal Playoffs and Acosta earned a spot on the All-District IX team as an Honorable Mention player. The defensive end went on to claim NAIA recognition the following three years, named to the All-District Second Team in 1982 and 1983. His senior season Acosta added "All-American" to his list of accolades named NAIA Second Team All-American and First Team All-District in 1984.

During his four years as an Aggie Acosta played under three different head coaches (Lawrence, Orebaugh and Phillips) but says, "I didn't miss a beat. We kept most of the same assistants throughout, and our team just knew what to do." With many of the players coming from out of state, Acosta felt that the diversity of the team brought them together and added to the toughness with which they played. We had people from everywhere and played with a little chip on our shoulders, but our mentality was we're here let's make the best of it." For Acosta, her felt that God had sent him here on a mission and he just wanted to make the people of Panhandle proud.

Acosta admits that he felt a bit isolated upon arrival in Goodwell, he also recalls a special surprise that made him feel more at ease his first day on campus. "My sister drove down with me, and I think she could tell I was feeling a little nervous. She went to Guymon while I was in an orientation meeting in the gym and bought stuff to make signs and posters; when I got back to my room she had it all decorated to cheer me up." From that point on, he quickly learned that how well taken care of he would be in his new surroundings. "My time spent at Panhandle was a very essential part of my life. I appreciate all of the fatherly figures (coaches, faculty and community members) for teaching me how to behave and taking an interest in all of us kids."

Looking back now, Acosta sees his years at Panhandle as "the most joyous time of my life" saying, "What I learned there, I am still putting to use today." His five years of undergraduate work included being a student assistant on campus and fulfilling his student teaching requirements at nearby Hooker High School. He spoke of his academic career commenting, "Beyond football, I just tried to take care of business." The Physical Education major went on to earn a Master's degree from Pittsburgh State where he served as a graduate assistant and linebackers coach for the Gorillas football team. While at Pitt State Acosta met the love of his life, Alice; the two have been married for over 28 years.

From Pittsburgh, Kan. to Laredo, Texas, the young coach was led to Laredo Nixon High School with the help of friend and former teammate Mario Mendoza. After working as an assistant coach for three years in Texas, Acosta found himself back in his home state of Arizona. There he earned a 4A State Championship as the Defensive Coordinator at Tempe High School. He spent nine years in Tempe before moving into the head coaching ranks at Cesar Chavez High School in Laveen, Ariz. During his first year at CCHS Acosta also held the title of Athletic Coordinator. He spent the next six years at Cesar Chavez heading up the football, baseball and softball programs as the head coach for each sport. Then, serving one year as the Athletic Coordinator Acosta settled in as assistant coach for football and baseball of Betty Fairfax High School (also in Laveen) where he continues molding young athletes and teaching Physical Education today.

When learning of his individual induction into the Aggie Hall of Fame Acosta said, "It's huge!" He recalls going into the All-American room while at Panhandle and the sense of pride that gave him. "I never dreamed I would be there and now this. I am very blessed." The Class of 2016 Hall of Fame Inductee offered a few words to young athletes, "If you have a chance, take it. If you're given an opportunity to play your sport a little longer, take it no matter where it is, and take your degree. Not many people are blessed with that opportunity."

Manny plans to share his special night with his wife Alice, children Dakotah and Taylor Grace, mother and siblings. The induction ceremony and banquet is set for Friday, Feb. 3 at 7 p.m. in the Student Union Ballroom at Panhandle State. Tickets are available and those interested in attending can contact Jerry Olson at 580-206-0184 or by email at Seating is limited, so reservations are encouraged.