When it comes to Emmanuel Arceneaux there is the persona and then there’s the person.
“Most people know Manny the football player,” said the veteran Edmonton Elks receiver. “You look at the football guy, he’s arrogant, trash talking. But nobody knows Manny the person.
“Manny the person gives you the shirt off his back and will help you in any way he can. That’s what a lot of people don’t know about.”
Markus Howell, Edmonton’s wide receivers coach, remembers first meeting Arceneaux the person while coaching with the BC Lions in 2018.
“I had seen him from afar and the talent he had as a player,” said Howell. “But I didn’t know the leadership qualities he had in the locker room.
“He’s taken guys under his wing and shown them the ropes.”
On a 2-5 Elks teams still trying to find its way, Arceneaux brings some direction.
Heading into Saturday night’s game against the Lions at BC Place, the 34-year-old is second among Edmonton receivers with 25 catches for 356 yards and a touchdown. He leads the team with two catches of 30 or more yards.
“Age is nothing but an identifier,” said the six-foot-two, 210-pound Arceneaux. “I feel great. I prepared for this moment, to be durable enough and be able to withstand the hits and blocking.”
Howell said Arceneaux’s contributions extend beyond making plays on the field. He offers support and advice to veterans like Kenny Lawler and second-year Canadian Chris Osei-Kusi.
Arceneaux’s ego doesn’t prevent him from listening to a young quarterback like Taylor Cornelius tell him how he wants a route run. During practice, Arceneaux gives guidance to defensive backs on how to defend receivers.
“He’s one of the shining spots on the offence,” said Howell. “There’s been a lot of transition as we’re trying to figure this thing out.
“He’s been a constant. He turns up highly prepared, he plays fast, plays physical, catches the football and makes plays.”
For Arceneaux, it’s a chance to play it forward. He remembers joining the Lions back in 2009 where he learned from leaders like Geroy Simon, Paris Jackson, Korey Banks, Dante Marsh and Travis Lulay.
“When I came into football, I had veteran guys in the locker room with me and I feel it’s right to keep that going,” said Arceneaux. “What’s the point of keeping secrets? If you’ve got some of the resources and answers, give them to the next guy. Don’t make them stub their toe or bump their head when you can help them.
“We are in this thing for guys to play as many years as possible and to get the most they can out of football. Any way I can help a brother, that’s how I look at it.”
This is Arceneaux’s 10th CFL season. He spent eight years with the Lions, where he was a two-time CFL All-Star, making 556 catches for 8,269 yards and 55 touchdowns.
He spent 2019 with Saskatchewan, collecting 22 catches for 249 yards and two touchdowns.
It looked like Arceneaux’s career had followed its course when the 2020 CFL season was cancelled due to the pandemic, then no one signed him in 2021.
Arceneaux spent time working with young athletes in Prosper, TX, and playing for the Frisco Fighters of the Indoor Football League in 2021. He admitted to some doubt if he would ever play in the CFL again.
“I know I could play and contribute,” he said. “I just needed someone to give me an opportunity.”
That opportunity came when Simon, the CFL’s all-time receiving leader who is now Edmonton’s assistant general manager, contacted Arceneaux.
Arceneaux wasn’t bothered that he came to training camp knowing he had something to prove.
“The CFL wants to see the next upcoming talent,” he said. “You’ve got to remind them of who you are but never forget the process (that made you) who you are. I know what I’m capable of, I know what I bring to the table.
“Just show up ready to work. Don’t be looking for any handouts or think you are entitled to something due to having success for so long. You’ve got to earn it. You did it before, it shouldn’t be an issue doing it again.”
Howell said Arceneaux understands his role in the Elks’ offensive scheme.
“He’s a reliable guy,” said Howell. “He’s having just as much production with not as many snaps. His production rate is very high.”
After a slow start, Arceneaux believes the Elks can surprise some teams as the season progresses.
“This team is actually good,” he said. “This team has a ton of talent, probably one of the most talented locker rooms I’ve been in. What we’re doing is learning how to play as a team, because talent only gets you so far.
“I think we have started to gel. We just have to click at the right time.”
Away from the field, Arceneaux has sent up a company called The Manny Show Youth Athletic Development which works with young athletes between the ages of nine and 14.
“That age group where they get overlooked, because most people don’t have the patience,” he said.
Arceneaux calls playing with the Elks a blessing.
“It’s an opportunity I waited for and I’m just looking to make the most of it,” he said.
His two years away from the CFL also put his life into perspective.
“It tapped me into that this is my occupation and not who I am,” he said.
“I’m the same old person. The only thing different now is I’m married with two kids. Football hasn’t changed me. The love of success hasn’t changed me. My failures haven’t changed me. I take each day one day at a time. I am who I am.”