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Reaching the Super Bowl Has Been a ‘Snap’ for Little League Graduate Patrick Mannelly

WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. (Jan. 29, 2007) – The last time the Chicago Bears advanced to the Super Bowl, Patrick Mannelly was nine years old and a player in East Marietta (Ga.) National Little League. Twenty-one years later, the one-time Little League infielder is literally at the center of the Bears’ special teams, serving as the team’s long snapper on punts and field goals.

Posting a 15-3 record, including two playoff victories, and the National Football Conference (NFC) championship, Chicago advanced to its first National Football League (NFL) title game since its 1985 championship season. The Bears will play the AFC Champion Indianapolis Colts (15-4) in Super Bowl XLI, on Feb. 4 in Miami.

 Patrick Mannelly, a graduate of East Marietta (Ga.) National Little League, is the long snapper for the NFL’s Chicago Bears. An eight-year NFL veteran, Mr. Mannelly is the son-in-law of Tommy and Sally John. Mr. John pitched 26 seasons in Major League Baseball; and Mrs. John is a member of the Little League International Board of Directors.

Photo Courtesy of Bill Smith, team photographer, Chicago Bears

“It’s a dream come true to be going to the Super Bowl,” Mr. Mannelly, a native of Atlanta and 1997 graduate of Duke University, said. “As the playoffs went along, each Sunday my stomach got a little tighter. I tried to remain calm by going back and thinking about what I’ve done 100 times and remembered what’s made me successful.”

Considered one of the NFL’s most accurate long snappers, Mr. Mannelly, 31, entered the league as a sixth-round draft pick out of Duke in 1998, and played in every game in his rookie season. The 6-foot-5, 265-pound tackle is the most-tenured player on the Bears roster, playing in more than 125 games. He has played in all 16 regular-season games six times in his eight-year career, and snapped 1,158 of the team’s 1,178 long-snaps during that time.

“I was a two-year starter on the offensive line (at Duke), but I was drafted for the skill of long snapping,” Mr. Mannelly said. “In my third season with the Bears, I saw my future as a long snapper because it has become a vital position on the 53-man roster.”

Understanding the rigors of being a professional athlete is often difficult for a player’s family to appreciate, but for Mr. Mannelly that is not a problem. In 1998, he married his college sweetheart Tamara John. Tamara is the daughter of Tommy and Sally John. Tommy was Major League Baseball pitcher for 26 years; and Sally is a member of the Little League International Board of Directors.

The relationship he has with his father-in-law is solid and insightful, and his wife can also relate to the life, having grown up watching her dad crisscross the country while pitching for several Major League teams including, the New York Yankees, Chicago White Sox and Los Angeles Dodgers.

“Tommy’s career was 10 times better than mine, but if I get a ring, I’ll be wearing it whenever we go to visit them,” Mr. Mannelly said.

Mr. Mannelly can envision what its like to be a champion, having celebrated with older brother Bernard who won the 1988 NCAA football championship while a player at the University of Notre Dame.

“Typically, Bernard and I have had a sibling rivalry, but we are very close,” Mr. Mannelly said. “He played in a state championship game, and won national championship … I’d like to trump him with a Super Bowl ring.”

Patrick’s brother and the rest of the Mannelly family will be at Dolphins Stadium for the game.

Playing Little League for three years was a special time for Mr. Mannelly. He was an all-star, and got to see first-hand what it looks like to be a world champion as his home league, East Marietta National Little League, won the Little League Baseball World Series in 1983. He said he was equally thrilled for the team from Columbus Northern Little League, when last summer it became the second team from Georgia to win the World Series title.

Photo Courtesy of Longsnapper.com

“The Little League World Series is one of the best sporting events on TV,” Mr. Mannelly said. “I feel connected to Little League because of the ’83 team, and find myself watching ever year.”

He also stays current with the Little League program through his in-laws. Mrs. John has been a member of the Little League International Board of Directors since 1992, and Tommy, who played Little League in Terre Haute, Ind., has participated in numerous Little League functions over the years. In 2002, he was awarded the Bill Shea Distinguished Little League Graduate Award by Little League International.

“Whenever (the Johns) are in town, I am always bragging about the 1983 team,” Mr. Mannelly said. “You learn true sportsmanship in Little League, and I think every kid should be involved. It’s unbelievable what the organization has been able to do for the children of the world.”

Photo Courtesy of Longsnapper.com

On “Super Sunday,” Mr. Mannelly predicts a great game and a happy experience, but at game’s end he hopes to avoid the ultimate and obvious disappointment. What he really wants are championship memories filled with jubilation, a victory parade, the NFL championship trophy and big, shiny ring.

“I keep picturing being out in the middle of the field with my teammates passing the Lombardi Trophy around,” Mr. Mannelly said.

The Mannellys make their home in Lake Bluff, Ill., a suburb of Chicago, and have a one-year-old daughter, Tyle