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From Van Wilder to Asher Roth, many college seniors have fantasized about never leaving their collegiate lives behind.

Former Penn defensive back Jordan Manning is living that dream, albeit in a slightly different form.

Manning, a year removed from a senior season in which he led the Quakers' defensive backs in tackling, recently began working for coach Al Bagnoli and Penn football as the assistant director of football operations.

The Harrisburg, Pa., native, majored in Biological Basis of Behavior and started all 10 games for the Quakers in the 2008 season.

He certainly has a player's perspective down pat.

And because he is now working for the team he used to "do work" for, Manning has gained a new appreciation for Bagnoli and his staff.

"You show up at seven a.m. and don't leave until practice is over [in the late evening,]" Manning said. "I always knew [the coaches] worked hard, but you never realize [how hard.]"

Manning and other former players who return to the program say they have been enlightened by their time behind the scenes.

Working with - instead of for­ - the coaching staff­­ gives Manning an exclusive look at a system that is kept behind closed doors.

"You see how the program works," Manning said. "They hide that kind of stuff from the players intentionally."

But as educational and interesting as working for the Penn football coaching staff may be, Manning is kept at just a far enough distance from the game he loves.

"As far as on-the-field activities go, I kind of just hang out in the back," he said. "I wouldn't really say I'm a coach."

Coach or not, he still gets to spend time with the team he just left at the school from which he just graduated.

Unfortunately, it also involves a good deal of office work.

Manning spends a lot of his time e-mailing recruits and organizing visits for high-school players to come watch the Quakers. Several of these players may even be in attendance when the team takes on Villanova tomorrow.

His job sure sounds like the roller-coaster of excitement that Manning and his former teammates must have envisioned during their senior years.

Or maybe not.

However, Manning, who helped lead a secondary that was ranked first in the Ivy League in pass defense last season, takes pride in the advice he can offer to both young and injured players on the current roster.

"I'll hang back and do mental reps with [the injured players]," Manning said. "Guys will come up and ask me questions."

In essence, Manning has stayed on another year as a sort of advisor who happens to help with recruiting and other team administrative responsibilities.

He calls himself a "reference" for other players on the team.

He is the Van Wilder to the football team's Taj.

Not even Roth could have painted a better picture.

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