Former Hornet Dimanche finds niche in the NFL

The date was Oct. 28 and Cincinnati Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis was flashing slides of each game ball recipient from the previous days 49-9 win over the Jets.

Suddenly, up popped rookie Jayson DiManche, the pride of Hamilton High, and a cheer went up among the veterans.

I was real proud and glad to get that ball, said DiManche, who was back in Hamilton last weekend after the Bengals Thursday night overtime loss to Miami. I wasnt really expecting it so it was a surprise to me, they usually dont give game balls to rookies.

Everybody gave a loud cheer and was real excited. Our team has a lot of veterans and they like to see young guys do well.

They have been seeing DiManche do pretty darn well with the opportunities he has been given so far. The former Hornet and Southern Illinois star is on most of the Bengals special teams and leads Cincinnati in special teams tackles.

In the Jets win, he made five tackles, including two solos, and helped hold down explosive return man Josh Cribbs. Not bad for an undrafted free agent signee.

Im on everything, punt return, hands team, he said. I do everything the starters basically dont do. At the same time I have to be a good back-up and be ready to step in at any position. Its a big responsibility, but its good for me. Theres not too much on my table, but just enough for me to handle and get better with.

DiManche has gotten a few chances to line up at linebacker in the last two games, and has shown potential to the guy who counts the most.

Hes been better every week, linebackers coach Paul Guenther told Hes coming on. Hes a special teams guy who is developing into an up-and-coming player.

Being a respectful player, DiManche was not about to argue with his coach.

Thats a great honor, DiManche said. He knows what hes talking about, hes been coaching so long. If he says that, I agree with him and I say the same thing. Im hoping Im up and coming and try to take advantage of any opportunities I get.

Paulie is probably one of the main guys in there that instills the most confidence in me, DiManche continued. Paulie always tries to keep my head up. Even though Im not playing that much, Im a player he watches when Im out on the scout team or running out on special teams.

The first-place Bengals (6-3) are in Baltimore today, where Hoglen and several Hornet assistants will be in attendance. They will be watching a protg whose confidence is increasing each week and who has not let being in the NFL overwhelm him.

The thing I realize is that you play your best, you do your best, you just relax and do what you do naturally as opposed to making it bigger than it needs to be; or doing so much that you cant handle it all, said DiManche, who has 12 tackles this season. The thing about this team is its a good team. You dont have to go beyond your boundaries or outside of your own abilities.

You just keep doing what we have to do at practice, and it never seems like too much. We have a lot of veterans and they do a good job preparing the young guys for what to expect.

One of those veterans is fellow linebacker James Harrison, the NFLs Defensive Player of the Year several seasons ago. Harrison, like DiManche, signed as a free agent and serves as a good role model for the youngster.

Hes a great leader; he knows exactly what to say before the game and during the game, DiManche said. Hes been a great inspiration to all of us. Hes one of the great linebackers, and we have a lot of great ones.

While he was home last weekend, DiManche watched his little brother, Reidgee, play for the Hornets freshmen team against West Windsor-Plainsboro North. The next day he and Hamilton coach Tom Hoglen took in the Lawrence-Northern Burlington game. On Sunday, he watched NFL football something he does a bit differently these days.

Ive always watched football games kind of methodically; Id watch my favorite players, DiManche said. Now when I watch, I look at what teams try to do offensively or on special teams. I see how they like to attack on certain defenses or special teams.

When Im watching now, its more business-like, not just on the fan side. It makes it more fun to watch.

And for fans of Mercer County football, DiManche has made the Bengals more fun to watch this year.

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