Hawaii football: Ilm Manning engineers strong start to college career

Offensive lineman Ilm Manning drilled last fall, when he was a true freshman and went on to start all 14 games of 2018. / Star-Advertiser file photo by Craig T. Kojima

Ilm Manning pledged to make all aspects of his college career about learning, be it as an athlete or a mathlete.

Manning jumped straight into the trenches as a true freshman at Hawaii last fall, earning the starting left tackle job for the duration of the 2018 season. So, too, did he plunge into the UH pre-engineering program, taking some difficult math and calculus courses in his first two semesters of college.

“It is pretty challenging, all the calculus classes you have to take. But I like challenges, so yeah,” said Manning, a Glendale, Ariz., native who professes an affinity for left-brained subjects and was named an Academic All-Mountain West selection in 2018.

“I like the world of science, basically,” Manning said. “Definitely, I want to be in engineering someday, do that. Hopefully, if football isn’t the way, engineering will be there for me.”

There could be options. But first, Manning (6-4, 280 pounds) must master the angles and signs of protecting Cole McDonald’s blind side.

“They have asked me to learn the offense more, master the offense, basically,” Manning said of his Year 2 responsibilities. “I know all the basics, it’s just that all the (wrinkles), stuff like that, just get better at that, and I’ll be a good athlete. So that’s what I’m focusing on this fall camp. Getting stronger, more physical, and learning all the plays.”

His instant-impact potential was apparent coming out of high school. As a two-way lineman at Apollo High, he was named the 2017 5A Metro Region Player of the Year as a senior.

Manning will be forever linked with Solo Vaipulu, the other O-lineman (right guard) who arrived last year and started all 14 games. Per UH, they were two of four true freshmen in the country to start every game that year. Vaipulu has temporarily taken over at center for the injured Kohl Levao, and the offensive line has shuffled accordingly from the right, but the left side has remained intact.

Interview opportunities to this point have been limited; true freshmen are not allowed to do them, per a policy of Nick Rolovich. But now that he’s got a sophomore’s green light, Manning could become a face of the program for the next few years.

He played next to left guard J.R. Hensley, a talkative leader, throughout 2018. The older player offered him the tips and tricks of a wily veteran along the way. This fall, Hensley’s had to do less of that as he’s observed Manning recognize things on his own.

“Oh, it helped me tremendously. He was there for me every snap of the ball. A credit to him, he played a big role in my freshman season.”

Hensley, after a grueling two-hour practice in the hot sun at Punahou on Tuesday, brightened up immediately when asked about his trench-mate.

“Oh man, he’s been doing great. I think he’s developing as a player,” Hensley said. “He doesn’t act like a young guy anymore. He’s acting more like a veteran. He had a great season this past year, so I think he’s going to capitalize off of it. He was a freshman, but now he’s not playing like a freshman. Now he’s acting like he’s been here before, and I’m very excited for him. … I’m very excited to see how far he’ll go.”

Ilm Manning lifted wide receiver JoJo Ward after a touchdown against Wyoming on Oct. 6, 2018. / Star-Advertiser file photo by Jamm Aquino


  1. H-Man August 7, 2019 9:22 pm

    Enjoyed this article. Looking for improved run-blocking on this side of the line.

  2. turfwar August 7, 2019 10:00 pm

    Terrific young man. Already knew he was a great athlete, but to be a engineeering major even as a non athlete is tough. He represents being a student athlete at the highest levels. His future is bright. Nice story Brian.

  3. iGrokSpock August 8, 2019 8:30 am

    Imagine what he’ll be like by his senior year!

  4. NorthShoreFan August 9, 2019 8:13 am

    Student Athlete definition. Great story!

  5. Veronica Anderson August 10, 2019 5:10 am

    Ilm Manning is my grandson we are very proud of him love you and keep up the good work. We are cheering for you and the team good luck.

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