Nearing DJK's record, Martin-Manley has done it his way
IOWA CITY, Ia. – Kevonte Martin-Manley has the perfect scenario in his head, how he will break Iowa's all-time receptions record on Jan. 2 at EverBank Field in Jacksonville, Fla.
"Probably a double move or a triple move for a touchdown," the senior from Pontiac, Mich., said. "That'd be pretty sweet."
Consistency, not flash, is how Martin-Manley — a lightly recruited prospect from Brother Rice High School — has racked up 171 receptions in his Iowa career.
Martin-Manley has never missed a game at Iowa. The TaxSlayer Bowl against Tennessee will mark his 51st game as a Hawkeye. He's had at least one reception in all but three of them, but never more than nine in a game.
Kirk Ferentz joked that Iowa players refer to Martin-Manley as "Pops" — like Hall of Famer Willie Stargell of the Pittsburgh Pirates, the Iowa coach's favorite baseball team — because he's been a fixture of the program for so long.
"Obviously, you hope it happens," Ferentz said of the record. "We're not going to jerry-rig the deal at all. It's a true testament to his consistency."
There's that word again: consistency.
It's been Martin-Manley's calling card as a Hawkeye. His season-by-season reception totals: 30, 52, 40, 49. He's not a big-play guy, averaging 10.4 yards per catch, and he's got two career 100-yard games — both as a sophomore.
His 1,776 career yards rank 13th on Iowa's all-time list — nearly 1,100 yards behind the school-record 2,861 Marvin McNutt piled up in essentially three years.
So, no, Martin-Manley won't be confused with the guy's record he has a chance to break: Derrell Johnson-Koulianos (aka "DJK").
DJK was all flash — in good ways and not-so-good ways — in amassing 173 catches for 2,616 yards from 2007 to 2010. DJK was suspended for Iowa's bowl game his senior year after a drug-related arrest.
Martin-Manley (at 6-foot, 205 pounds, not your prototypical NFL-style receiver) modeled parts of his game after DJK (who was 6-1, 200). Martin-Manley redshirted in DJK's final season.
"When I first came in … I really watched him because we are so similar in the way that we run," Martin-Manley said. "Our route techniques, even stature, route running, things like that. I watched him on the field, and just watched how he got open."
The two have exchanged text messages as Martin-Manley approaches the Iowa record.
"He just tells me, 'Get the record,' " Martin-Manley said. "I'm like, 'Alright, bro, I'm about to get it.' "
On the way to this record possibility, Martin-Manley has reflected on his steady career.
First, he's appreciative of Ferentz — who gave him his only Big Ten scholarship offer.
Then, there's the first pass that was ever thrown to him.
"I dropped my first pass, from A.J. Derby (now a tight end at Arkansas)," Martin-Manley said. "I'll never forget that."
His most profound memory as a Hawkeye actually came during his redshirt freshman year — when he burst onto the scene in Iowa's 31-27 comeback win against Pittsburgh.
Martin-Manley caught four passes for 76 yards and two touchdowns that day in 2011 — including the winning 22-yard strike from James Vandenberg with 2:51 remaining — in just his third career game.
"I think about it to this day. It was a moment I appreciated so much," Martin-Manley said. "… It was really the first thing that made my mark to people knowing who I was, and getting my career started on a good note."
So, 48 games later … three catches against Tennessee separate Martin-Manley from the top perch in Hawkeye history.
No sweat, right?
Martin-Manley isn't taking it for granted, even though he has been held to fewer than three catches only twice this year.
"It's been very uncomfortable to be honest," Martin-Manley said. "I really can't relax mentally right now. A little bit of worry, too, a little bit of nervousness behind it. Because you have to do it to get it.
"Until you do it, it's not done."
MARTIN-MANLEY BY THE NUMBERS
A look at the steady career of Kevonte Martin-Manley, an Iowa senior from Pontiac, Mich.:
Games played: 50
Games missed: 0
Games without a catch: 3
Receiving yards: 1,776
Yards per catch: 10.4
Touchdowns: 14 (2 on punt returns)
Most receptions, game: 9. Northern Illinois, 2013)
Most yards, game: 131 (at Indiana, 2012)
2014 season-high yardage: 74 (at Purdue)