Tom Manning has plenty of connections to the Colts – just not to head coach Shane Steichen.
Manning spent 2018 as the Colts' tight ends coach, where he helped Eric Ebron catch 66 passes for 750 yards with 13 touchdowns while bringing along Mo Alie-Cox in his first year on the Colts' 53-man roster. That lone season in the NFL was sandwiched between two stints at Iowa State (2016-2017, offensive coordinator/offensive line; 2019-2022, offensive coordinator/running backs, tight ends).
And while Manning hadn't coached with Steichen prior to being hired by the Colts for the second time, the offense he ran at Iowa State – with Brock Purdy primarily playing quarterback – has foundational similarities to the one deployed by Steichen.
"I've been able to kind of watch those guys from afar and really watch what coach Steichen has been able to do and have always kind of followed him, because that's the offense we were in at Iowa State — it trickled down from our time here. The stars kind of aligned a little bit with opportunity, and I think the opportunity to work with coach Steichen and his staff and then Chris Ballard and his staff, for me it was the right thing at the right time."
While the only tight end left from 2018 is Alie-Cox, Manning does know about some of the young guys in his tight ends room. He's friends with some coaches who worked with Drew Ogletree in his stops at Findlay and Youngstown State, and remembers Jelani Woods from his time in the Big 12 at Oklahoma State.
"This group is a hungry and willing group, much like I think what we had in '18," Manning said. "Obviously Jack Doyle, Mr. Indiana — my man — he led that group with a certain hunger and hopefully those young guys here and can understand that and keep building on what they've been doing."
The development of guys like Woods, Ogletree and Kylen Granson will have a significant impact on the Colts' offense in 2023. But from the perspective of coaching style and offensive philosophy, Manning and Steichen see eye to eye – which can only help with the growth of those young tight ends.
"We share a lot of the same values in terms of how we see offensive football but really how we see building a football program in terms of character, preparation and doing things the right way," Manning said. "I was extremely impressed by him and thought I had to jump at the opportunity to be on his staff and learn and grow from him."