He ran home, changed into jeans and an old sweatshirt and headed for the frat. Manley found the guys and kicked their butts. As they were running off, he heard someone yell, "Hey! He had something!" Manley felt his cheek, and it was bleeding. One of the guys had hidden a razor blade in his hand. The gash required 18 stitches to close.
"There were times when I think Dexter wanted to back down, but couldn't," says L.P. Williams, one of his few college friends, who is now a minister. "He had to live up to the image people had of him."
That meant talking big and playing big to cover the loneliness. His grandiose demeanor irritated sportswriters, players and coaches—especially coaches. One day, according to Manley, some Oklahoma State coaches were watching game films. They saw Manley on the screen and summoned him into the room. Says Manley, "They said, 'Dex, you're never going to be——. You're never going to be nothing but a factory worker, digging ditches all your life.'
"I thank them for that day. It drove me to become the best."
"I don't know anything about this incident," says then head coach Jimmy Johnson, who is now at Miami. "It may have been a challenge to him. Everybody was trying to bring out the best in Dexter. It's not uncommon to bear down on a player who is not fulfilling his potential."
Pat Jones, who was Oklahoma State's defensive coordinator at the time and the coach who was closest to Manley, doesn't recall the film-room incident, either. "If anyone had gotten on him, it would have been me," says Jones. "I'm kind of proud of him for making something of himself."
Manley also says that he was told that State's coaches bad-mouthed him to pro scouts, causing him to drop from a first-round draft pick to a fifth-rounder. Johnson denies the charge. "You hear a lot of things like this from individuals hoping to be drafted higher," says Johnson. "I don't think he performed up to his potential. We were surprised by his success. If anything, the coaches were instrumental in getting him drafted as high as he was. We really talked Dexter up whenever the pros came in."
In any case, Manley's off-field behavior didn't enhance his lot with the pros. For instance, he illegally cashed $9,571 in Social Security survivor-benefit checks by claiming he was single rather than married. His explanation: "After my dad died, I felt like I wanted to be greedy." Manley was fined $5,000 and put on three years' probation under the Youth Corrections Act, which allowed him to clear his record if he made restitution. He says that he has paid back all the money.
In an attempt to keep a Basic Educational Opportunity Grant, Manley twice claimed that he had three children. He had one. Explanation: "Somebody told me to say that I had three kids. I won't say who."
If Manley was out for himself, he had good teachers, from Reggie to recruiters to his first agent, Dallas-based Joe Courrege. "Courrege would talk to me for hours on the phone, reading the Bible and getting spiritual," he says. "I thought that was great. Then the moment I signed, I never heard from him again."