DERRY — It should have been a day for giving thanks. In fact, it was the day for being thankful — Thanksgiving Day 2009.
And 14-year-old Manny Latimore had plenty to be thankful for that day.
Latimore, his mother Adine and sister Nichell were spending the holiday in Florida, where the dynamic halfback had led his Derry Wolverines to the Youth Football Nationals, the crowning achievement of his already memorable young football career.
The family had just sat down for Thanksgiving dinner, and the giddy Latimore — nine days removed from celebrating his birthday — was already dreaming of his matchup with a team from Nebraska the following day.
Then the phone rang with the call that is every child’s worst nightmare.
Phillip Latimore, Manny’s father, had suffered a heart attack while driving home from Thanksgiving dinner with Manny’s other sister and nephew. His car veered off the road and struck a tree.
Phillip, 52, was dead.
“It was just a shock,” said Manny. “It brought so many thoughts rushing to my head. It was the first big loss I experienced in my life. I really didn’t know how to react.”
Now three months shy of his 18th birthday, Latimore is 5 feet 10 inches tall and 190 pounds with jet-quick speed. His shoulders are wide enough to carry Pinkerton Academy to a state title, and his legs evoke memories of NFL legend Earl Campbell. They are the source of his immense power as a runner, which is often overlooked due to his quickness.
In short, Latimore is the player every opponent in New Hampshire dreads. He torched the state for 1,504 yards and 29 touchdowns last season.
“I honestly believe Manny is, at least talent-wise, as great a back as I have ever coached,” said Brian O’Reilly, who is entering his 36th year as head coach.