There is a saying that people can’t choose their family, but that’s not true. This is a story of a man choosing to love a boy that wasn’t his natural-born son but made a choice to love him anyway. If not for that decision, then what happened on Wednesday might not have been possible. What has happened in this young man’s life has everything to do with where he is in life and where he is going in the future.
Everyone in Chaves County knows that Cade Manzanares is all-everything as a linebacker in football. What many people do not know is the road he traveled to get there. According to his dad, Joe Manzanares, when he was young, Cade Manzanares had trouble walking and chewing gum at the same time. He had no speck of athletic talent. It wasn’t until Joe and his brother, Drew Manzanares were coaching a football team in the Roswell Youth Football League that they discovered that Cade Manzanares’ talent is football.
It was during an Oklahoma Drill, the coaches had a player lined up across Cade Manzanares in a three-point stance, as soon as the ball was snapped, Cade was run over by the lineman and running back at the same time. After the play was over, both Drew and Joe Manzanares rushed over to see if he was OK.
When the coaches went over, Cade Manzanares looked at his dad and smiled and told him that he loved hitting. That’s when they knew Cade Manzanares had found his sport.
Roswell’s Cade Manzanares and his father went to visit Eastern New Mexico University on Friday. He loved the campus and facilities so much that Cade Manzanares verbally committed to continue his education and play his college football at Eastern New Mexico University on Wednesday.
One of the reasons Cade Manzanares feels comfortable going to ENMU is that he met the players, coaches and faculty there during his visit and it felt like home to him and very welcoming. The ‘Hounds plan to red-shirt him and play him as inside linebacker. With a year of lifting and getting bigger, he will be able to contribute in his sophomore year.
Cade Manzanares had a choice to make between ENMU and Black Hills State University. The chance to stay at home and be close to his family made it easier for him to choose to remain closer to Roswell.
“I wouldn’t be here without my dad (Joe),” Cade Manzanares said as he choked back tears talking about his father, Joe Manzanares. “We are really close because he is my adopted dad. He’s been there since my birth and he adopted me when I was 5. It makes me feel good knowing that somebody actually wanted me. He’s always there for me and he (Joe) loved me enough to take care of me, feed me and give me clothes and his last name. Everything I do, I try to be successful, because without him, where would I be? I just try to make him proud. I’m very blessed to have a person like my dad in my life because without him I wouldn’t be in the position that I’m in. He’s been in my corner and he’s pushed me. He loved me for me and not anything else.”
Cade Manzanares stresses that his dad helps him with everything in life. Everything from going to travel camps, paying for memberships to providing encouragement after games. After the championship game against Los Lunas, the first people Cade sought out was his mother, Meghan; his father, Joe; and uncle, Drew.
“Cade is my son, 100 percent,” Joe Manzanares said. “He is a part of me. I have loved him ever since he was born. There are a lot of people that don’t know I adopted him. I adopted him because I wanted to and I love him.”
For Cade Manzanares, this has been a whirlwind of a year. He has been a three-year starter at inside linebacker for Roswell and All-District the last two years. He was selected all-state linebacker for the second time and New Mexico Preps Linebacker of the Year. He helped lead Roswell to their first state title since 2000, and on Sunday night, he won the Jim Bradley Fighting Coyote Memorial Award. The award epitomizes the football player he is.
What the award stands for are the core values of Roswell football, which is: Time — how much time an athlete puts into the team. Effort and attitude — how much an athlete puts into the team. Me — how unselfish a player is toward the team.
“Cade (Manzanares) was the best representative of our core values,” Coyote coach Jeff Lynn said.
Cade Manzanares felt like his team was grounded and the turning point of the Coyotes’ season was when they lost to Hobbs. He noticed how his team was talking about the Lovington game on Thursday and that his team was in trouble. After the loss, coach Lynn put the team through the paces of watching film and reps of practice.
“I don’t think Hobbs was a better team than us,” Cade Manzanares said. “I really believe if we would have played them later in the season, we would have won. We were unfocused.”
Cade Manzanares noted that after the Los Lunas game, his brothers (teammates) thought they had the makings of being special and proving themselves. After Roswell defeated Belen, his team thought they had a chance to go deep into the playoffs. For Cade Manzanares and his teammates, this season was about proving themselves to the doubters who questioned them.
“My dad (Joe) wants me to live my best life,” Cade Manzanares said, “and to be successful. He wants me to be me and still be successful — and he will back me to the day he can’t. I can’t repay him for all that he has done for me. I think it is awesome the way he has stepped up for me.”
Joe Manzanares predicted that if his son and his teammates from the Roswell Youth Football League stayed together, they would win a state championship. Cade Manzanares thought the winner of the rematch between Artesia and Roswell would be the state champions and they were the two best teams in the state.
“I knew it was going to be a dogfight,” Cade Manzanares said. “It was tough to come from two touchdowns down. It could have been a game that didn’t have to end in a miracle play. It is special to be on coach Lynn’s first Goddard win, his first district and state championship. My favorite memory is every practice with my brothers (teammates), just the grind we had. We were sick of the semifinals slump, losing to (Belen and St. Pius X).”
Cade Manzanares will officially sign with ENMU on signing day in February. Joining him at ENMU will be Roswell teammate Justin Carrasco.