Case Mankins wears jersey No. 70 with pride.
It’s the same jersey number that his dad, Logan Mankins, the former New England Patriot and Tampa Bay Buccaneer All-Pro, wore when he ran onto fields throughout the National Football League.
The Bishop Feehan High two-way lineman stands out, not just because of his pedigree, but because he has established himself as one of the best at his craft among high school football players in the state. Mankinks, a junior, is turning heads and raising eyebrows of opposing coaches and foes because of his athleticism, technique and dynamism on the field.
Coach Bryan Pinabell is already fielding the calls and emails from NCAA Division I college coaches who are making it known that Mankins is on their radar.
Standing 6-foot-3 and listed at 245 pounds, Mankins is a chiseled specimen of skill. He has size, strength and stamina.
“He has exceptional technique,” Pinabell said of Mankins’ upper-body positioning, his lower body explosive-ness, his ability to create holes for running back Nick Yanchuk and bide time for the passing arm of quarterback Aidan Crump.
“He still hasn’t hit his ceiling,” Pinabell added. “He’s still scratching the surface. He’s starting to get some looks (from colleges), he’s a special player.”
The resume building continues for Mankins. It’s way too early in his career to list him among the pantheon of all-time great Shamrock linemen such as Andy Robertson, Skip Tramontana, Tim Sheldon, Stan Koss, David Paine, Andy Pelletier, Dean Merlin, Dan Messier and the Nazarian brothers.
But listening to Paul O’Boy, the former Bishop Feehan athletic director and football coach who still mentors Shamrock linemen, Mankins has the potential to be spoken of in rarefied air.
“He’s the real deal,” O’Boy said. “He’s a quiet kid, but he has kind of an aggressive attitude, too. He can be man, not in the sense of hurting anybody, but he’s no choir boy. He has good speed, real good reactions and he’s a smart kid. He has all of those tools to develop into a college lineman — he’s legit.”
Mankins plays with as much reckless abandon and confidence on the football field as he does on the basketball floor as a presence in the paint where he is a rebounding machine.
Comparisons have Mankins with former Denver Broncos All-Pro offensive lineman and Hall of Famer Tom Nalen. The former Foxboro High Warrior, who went on to play football at Boston College and become a five-time All-Pro performer during his 15-year NFL career.
Nalen, similarly, was one holy terror in the lane at a bruising center for then Foxboro High coach Creig Muscato. Mankins will be filling the same role for Shamrock hoop coach Dean O’Connor.
And wouldn’t you know it, his dad Logan, a seven-time All-Pro selection during his 11-year NFL career, was not shy about setting picks, boxing out and going to the backboard during his high school basketball days at Mariposa (Ca.) High.
And it is in those footsteps on the basketball floor that have helped develop Mankins into the player that he is, just eight games into his high school football career after the Shamrocks tangled with crosstown rival Attleboro High Friday night.
“We do not talk alot about technique,” Logan Mankins said of the stewardship of his son. “We watch film together sometimes. I might tell him a few things to practice on, I try not to overtake anything.”
The elder Mankins encouraged his son to play basketball, “I think that it’s good for you to do it,” he said of exploring other avenues of athleticism instead of being a 12-month a year football player. “Basketball, with all of its footwork definitely can help a lineman.”
At the moment, Mankins is stationed at the left tackle spot along the Shamrocks’ offensive line with 6-foot-3, 240-pound junior Eddie Cinelli at right tackle.
Junior Sean Finucane, at 6-foot-1 and 250 pounds has moved into the starting center role, flanked by six-foot, 225-pound junior Jake Gosselin to his right and six-foot, 240-pound junior Tristen Upton to his left.
“Every day I work on stuff at practice,” Mankins said of improving his skill set. And virtually every day throughout the year, he is in the Shamrock weight room, tailoring his frame under the watchful eye of training guru Mike Vitelli.
“Basketball, playing in the post, has definitely helped with my footwork,” Mankins explained of his nimbleness. “In basketball, you do a lot of running, so building my stamina helps, too,” he added, hardly ever coming off of the football field, save for some specialty teams situations.
“After a game, my dad doesn’t talk too much, usually we just watch game film,” Mankins said of his Football Lineman 101 instruction. “It doesn’t make much difference to me if I play the right side (tackle) or left. I really like to play defense — you can hit people!”
Mankins admits in his personal critique that he has improved his technique and training as a football player, arriving on the field at practice or on a Friday night much more confident in being able to execute the game plans.
“That line is five juniors, that’s exciting,” Pinabell praised his cast, the Shamrocks coming off of a three-win spring season when the group was serving an apprenticeship as sophomore with Mankins and his classmates are being tutored by line coach John Keenan.
“We took our lumps last season, we struggled tremendously,” Pinabell said, Mankins included in that sentence, too, of learning what is required to play at the varsity level. “As the season progressed, they started to figure it out and here we are now.”
Mankins did not attend any positional football camps during the summer or play in any showcase games. Once again, Mankins was found on the basketball floor for the Shamrocks at the Mass. Premier Courts summer league, Bishop Feehan concluding the regular season at the .500 level and winning a playoff round.
Mankins actually was more of a two-way end during his Pop Warner football days, a lean and lanky kid with a mop of red hair. Mankins began his Shamrock football career as a six-foot, 200 pound freshman.
And given that he was a wide-eyed adolescent hanging around the Buccaneers’ locker room, Mankins might be more of a Tampa Bay Bucs’ fan than a Patriots follower.
“I couldn’t believe how big those guys were, how fast they were, that was pretty cool,” said Mankins. “When my dad played for the Patriots, I was a Pats’ fan, but when he got traded to the Bucs, now I’m still a Bucs fan.”
Mankins wears No. 70 with pride, hoping that he represents the family name well.
“The team has more confidence and I’m more confident, too,” Mankins said of shaping his career and status. “I’m doing OK, I just go out there and play my hardest. There’s a lot of football to be played.”