By Laken Litman
FOX Sports College Football Writer
They call him a guru. A master. An expert.
But Duke Manyweather doesn’t identify with any of those characterizations. He prefers a different description when it comes to his work as the premier offensive line coach in the country.
“I am forever a student of the game who hasn’t stopped learning,” Manyweather said. “My mom was an educator. My dad was an undertaker. That message to me is as soon as you stop learning, you die. My parents’ professions are so symbolic and a microcosm of life.”
If you’re not an offensive lineman, perhaps you’ve never heard of Manyweather. But despite his not wanting to be considered a “guru,” the 36-year-old is, in fact, the go-to private trainer for offensive linemen.
Manyweather, who grew up in South Central Los Angeles and played Division II football at Humboldt State, works with both NFL veterans and prospective draftees. He hosts a convention in the summer, called OL Masterminds, for players and coaches of all ages, ranging from high school to pro.
For the past two years, Manyweather has hosted the most acclaimed offensive lineman camp in the country, which is appropriately named the “Big Boys Club.” The X’s and O’s and film study workshop for draft hopefuls will debut on YouTube at 7:30 p.m. ET Sunday and then air at 5 p.m. ET Tuesday on FS1 and the FOX Sports app. It will reair at 9 p.m. ET Wednesday on FS1 and the app.
Of the five players Manyweather worked with ahead of the NFL Scouting Combine this year, three could be 2022 first-round picks, including Alabama’s Evan Neal, Mississippi State’s Charles Cross and Northern Iowa’s Trevor Penning. Additionally, Manyweather hosts a rookie transition program with a handful of future draftees to prepare them for the NFL.
He also trains NFL veterans year-round and has built relationships with and become a resource for general managers and scouts, who pick his brain, trust his feedback and know “there’s no B.S. behind it,” Manyweather said.
He’s a guy living his dream.
Geoff Schwartz: Duke Manyweather is the OL Guru you need to know
RJ Young is joined by FOX Sports’ Geoff Schwartz to discuss the “Big Boys Club.” Schwartz explains what makes Duke Manyweather so effective and why so many top prospects seek him out before the NFL Draft.
“He genuinely loves offensive line,” said former NFL lineman and FOX Sports analyst Geoff Schwartz, who played high school football with Manyweather at Pacific Palisades in L.A. “He lives for this. This is what his life’s calling is, to work with offensive linemen. It’s that simple.
“One time, he was at my house, and when I walked into the kitchen at 10 a.m., he was sitting at the island, watching film and drinking a beer. He watches everything. He loves this. And I think that comes through in the way he trains players and the way he cares about your success.”
*** *** ***
Duane Manyweather II, who was nicknamed “Big Duke” by his high school JV football coach, grew up in the Carson-Compton area of L.A. and had plenty of opportunities, he said, to go down a lot of different paths. His parents raised him to have values and a strong work ethic and to understand the importance of education. Ultimately, the “football carrot” is what kept him focused.
Football has been Manyweather’s passion since his Pop Warner days. He played offensive line for his high school and was a captain at Humboldt State from 2004 to ’06. He had a brief stint in the Arena Football League when it was popular.
The rub was that, listed at 6 feet and 295 pounds on his collegiate roster, Manyweather didn’t have the ideal prototype to play at the next level. He wasn’t big enough or athletic enough, but he was incredibly strong and powerful. He loved the weight room and dabbled in competitive powerlifting. He studied the offensive line, obsessed over film and had great technique.
“I always found my way onto the field one way or another,” Manyweather said. “When I look back, I wanted more out of my college career, but I fought and clawed for every single rep and every game I started. That was an integral part of what I’m doing now. If I didn’t do that, I don’t think I could have become the coach and developer and educator that I am today because my message would be different.”
When Manyweather was cut from the AFL’s Arkansas Twisters, his coach drove him to the airport and told him that while he was fighting genetics on the field, he had a natural gift to coach. It was good timing, too. Manyweather, then in his early 20s, had been offered a couple of coaching jobs. During the day, he was the strength coach at Humboldt State, and then he’d drive 20 minutes down the 101 to be the offensive line and run game coordinator at College of the Redwoods in the evening.
In 2010, his alma mater hired him to be the defensive line coach, which he viewed as an opportunity to see the game through a different lens, given that he had always played and coached O-line.
“Big Boys Club”: Penei Sewell’s improbable journey
Revisit the 2021 episode of “Big Boys Club,” which featured Oregon offensive tackle Penei Sewell, who was drafted seventh overall by the Detroit Lions.
A couple of years later, Manyweather went to work for former NFL offensive lineman LeCharles Bentley, who had a business developing players. They parted ways in 2014, which is when Manyweather said he hit rock bottom. At the time, he had $12 to his name, but he found a job at a nutritional supplement store in Arizona, where he rose through the company and got back on his feet.
In 2016, he started training guys again. He flew to Charlotte to work with his buddy Schwartz and Geoff’s brother, former Kansas City Chiefs lineman Mitchell Schwartz. Manyweather took a few videos of the workouts and posted them on social media.
The videos went viral, and Manyweather started getting inquiries from linemen all over the country who were interested in working with him. Jeremy Parnell, who was with the Jacksonville Jaguars at the time, reached out first. Then D.J. Fluker, and then Ronald Leary.
A business took off from there.
*** *** ***
Six years later, Manyweather trains nearly 40 NFL linemen — and the list is growing. He works with them in person in the offseason, and many stay in touch and seek advice during the season. Manyweather is also currently coaching 16 players preparing for the NFL Draft, and this summer, he’ll host his fifth annual OL Masterminds Summit.
In its first year, 47 people attended the event. Last year, 200 came to what has become an offensive line convention for current players, retired players, college and high school players, and coaches at every level. People travel from all over to talk about the position, from technique to mental health to shoulder pads to nutrition. Manyweather, who lives in McKinney, Texas, holds the summit at the Sports Academy in Frisco, which is across the street from the Dallas Cowboys’ headquarters at The Star.
“Last year, there weren’t enough tables,” Schwartz said.
When it comes to private coaching, getting in with Manyweather happens mostly through word of mouth. He gets between 75 and 100 inquiries from college players who want to train, but the pool becomes smaller because some guys don’t want to make the commitment or don’t want to “obsess over development.”
Even Schwartz was initially guilty of that.
“He begged me to come train with him, and I was like, ‘I don’t know if I need that,’” Schwartz said. “But I did need that. There’s no one better than him.”
For those who want to work, Manyweather is viewed as one of the best in the business because of his ability to target areas of weakness and find ways to make players better. That could be footwork, hand placement, creating leverage with the hips or something else.
Neal, who first met Manyweather at the Nike Opening while he was in high school, says he’s already reaping benefits from training with regard to overall body control, isometric moves and different positions where he should engage his core and keep his balance at the same time.
Penning, who found Manyweather through social media, says Manyweather has really helped him with his technique and hand placement.
“In college, it was just two hands into the guy’s chest,” Penning said. “Here, we’re learning to aim for specific body parts. Like the outside pec or shoulder and then doing independent hands, so you’re not punching at the same time. You do the outside hand first, then bring the second hand with you after. It’s just a different technique that’s more advanced.”
Evan Neal headlines Geoff Schwartz’s top OL prospects
RJ Young and Geoff Schwartz break down the top offensive line prospects in the NFL Draft, with both seeing Alabama’s Evan Neal as the best available. Schwartz also explains why people should keep an eye on Trevor Penning and Charles Cross.
Added Schwartz: “A lot of places you go to have cookie-cutter ways they’re going to train you. With Duke, you never feel that way. He’ll be like, ‘This is a weakness you have. I saw it on film, so we’re going to target that, and we’re going to make you a better football player for this reason.’
“I always felt like he had my best interest. And I think that sets him apart. His eye for seeing what each individual player needs out of him is impressive and important. That’s why guys flock to him.”
That, and the results speak for themselves.
Manyweather’s 2021 “Big Boys Club” included former Oregon and current Detroit Lions lineman Penei Sewell and former Northwestern and current L.A. Chargers lineman Rashawn Slater. The two were the Nos. 7 and 13 draft picks in 2021, respectively, and Slater made the Pro Bowl as a rookie.
“The success we’re having is what’s making the difference,” Manyweather said. “People take notice of that.”
*** *** ***
Manyweather wakes up at 3:30 a.m. every day and is at the training center near The Star by 4 or 4:30. He wants to be ready to go by the time the players arrive at 6.
“I don’t like to be rushed,” he said.
In the little time he has to himself, Manyweather reads. He picks books about success, failure, relationships and communication. His recent reading list includes “The Seven Levels of Intimacy” and “Lost Connections,” and he has implemented various learnings from “Master Mind: The Memoirs of Napoleon Hill” into his overall training philosophy.
“We have 16 guys from 16 different backgrounds, and they come to trust me as a coach and someone they can trust in their life,” Manyweather said. “It’s my duty to figure it out in terms of how to relate and communicate.”
During the rookie transition camps, guys are on the field by 6 a.m. and have a full day of intense workouts, nutrition, recovery and film that goes until 3 or 4 p.m. These are long days for the players and for Manyweather.
“He’s definitely going to work you hard, for sure,” Neal said. “He wants the best out of his guys, and that’s why I like working with him. He’s obsessed with OL play and getting us better.
“And he’s a real humble cat. A good dude to be around.”
Neal, Penning and the other guys say they’ll continue working with Manyweather well past draft day. It’s those kinds of testimonials that cement Manyweather’s intention to never have another job.
“Abso-f—ing-lutely not,” he said when asked if he’d ever want to coach for a team. “And I want you to quote that. I will never work for anybody ever again, but I will definitely work with people.
“Working with the players and getting them better — that’s what it’s all about. Collaboration — that’s what it’s all about.”
Laken Litman covers college football, college basketball and soccer for FOX Sports. She previously covered college football, college basketball, the U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team and the Olympics at Sports Illustrated, USA Today and The Indianapolis Star. Her first book, written in partnership with Rizzoli and Sports Illustrated and titled “Strong Like a Woman,” was published in spring 2022 marking the 50th anniversary of Title IX.
Get more from National Football League Follow your favorites to get information about games, news and more.