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2023 CFL Draft loses star UBC linemen Giovanni Manu and Theo Benedet

The top-ranked Thunderbirds opted out of the upcoming spring draft in hopes of title shot
Giovanni Manu helped bring the Thunderbirds to a winning record of 6-5 for the 2022 season. (Bob Frid/UBC Athletics)

While there will be many top-tier players eligible for the upcoming 2023 CFL Draft in the spring, one player who will not be drafted is UBC Thunderbirds offensive lineman Giovanni Manu.

Manu, who started his football journey as a lineman for Pitt Meadows Secondary, announced his decision to opt out of the draft due to what he considers to be unfinished business with the Thunderbirds.

“Myself and the team came up short of getting out of conference last season,” said Manu. “We lost in the conference championship and that was one game I really wanted to win. I sat around and did a lot of thinking afterwards and decided why not come back one more year, win the conference, and have a shot at a national championship.”

The news of his deferral made a big impact on the upcoming draft, since Manu had recently been named the 15th-best draft prospect.

Thunderbirds lineman Theo Benedet, who was ranked as the 8th-highest draft prospect, also announced his deferral to the 2024 draft as well.

READ MORE: Pitt Meadows football star makes list of top-2o CFL Draft prospects

In addition to getting another shot at winning a national championship, Manu’s decision was also influenced by more personal reasons.

“Staying an extra year helps me get closer to getting my degree, which is something my parents want me to achieve,” said Manu.

“Staying an extra year also helps me develop more physically and mentally as a football player. I know the pros will be a level I will play at, but I don’t want to rush my development, so coming back one more year helps.”

Manu’s draft year will now be deferred to 2024, which he believes can have only a positive impact on where and when he gets drafted.

“I don’t believe deferring will affect my draft selection. If I didn’t opt out of this year’s draft, I was told by my coach’s I would potentially be taken in the first two rounds in the CFL, which is good.”

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With the draft no longer looming over him, Manu has now set his sights on the next Thunderbirds season and finally bringing home a national title.

“My focus for my potential last year with the Thunderbirds is to work my hardest in the gym and on the field this off-season so that when the season begins in the fall I’m ready to compete at a level my opponents can’t keep up with. And hopefully, by the end of the season, I hear my name called in the NFL draft selection.”

UBC Thunderbirds finished the 2022 postseason with a 23-8 loss to the U of S Huskies in the Canada West Final of the Hardy Cup.

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Brandon Tucker

About the Author: Brandon Tucker

I have been a journalist since 2013, with much of my career spent covering sports and entertainment stories in Alberta.
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