Kim Mansell sits in the stands at Riverside Field in Buffalo, and she appears to be the picture of composure. But if you get a little closer, you will notice a bit of a nervous energy about her.
Her son, Jason, is a sophomore quarterback for Lancaster, and he’s unflappable, whether he's lining up for plays or dropping back to find a downfield receiver.
Mansell’s husband, David, is Lancaster’s defensive coordinator and offensive line coach. He walks the sidelines with Legends coach Eric Rupp. David only seems to raise his voice when he communicates with his defense. He yells to them as opposed to yelling at them.
Thirteen hours and thousands of miles away, Kayla Mansell sends a text to her mother, letting Kim know that she found a Wi-Fi signal in the Australian outback. She is spending a semester abroad, and wants to know the score of the football game.
“She loves being a part of a football family,” Kim said. “She said the thing she misses the most is going to football games, and my fall cooking.”
Much closer to home, Ryan Mansell sends a text to his mom from the campus of SUNY Brockport, where he plays baseball.
“He’s asking for play-by-play of this game,” Kim said, laughing. “Maybe I should FaceTime it for him.”
Jason, the youngest child of the Mansell family, earned his second start Friday and helped the Legends to a 35-18 win against Hutch-Tech. He is 5-foot-9 and 180 pounds, and he is poised, confident and crisp on the field. He is quick on his feet, accurate with his passes and sound in his decision-making.
He isn’t his brother, though. Ryan, a former standout athlete at Lancaster, may have passed the torch to him as a quarterback, but Jason won’t light it by being known as “Ryan Mansell’s younger brother."
Making his own way
Jason Mansell has split reps with junior teammate Gianluca Fulciniti in the Legends' first two games. When Jason set the goal to become a varsity football player as a sophomore, he took in what he saw his brother and his teammates doing during Ryan’s senior year.
“I saw what this was really about for those seniors and for my brother, and I wanted to be a part of it,” Jason said. "I wanted to be a part of the team, and what they accomplished."
Jason made his own way to the weight room, to morning workouts in the summer and to running routes with teammates in the afternoons. Jason also remembered what it was like to be a freshman on the varsity during the playoffs, and what it felt like to lose the 2017 New York State Public High School Athletic Association Class AA championship game against Troy, even if he didn’t play in the game.
During the summer, Ryan noticed Jason watching video of all of Lancaster’s games, including its 2017 state championship game.
Ryan still can’t bring himself to watch footage of that one. But he noticed how intently Jason watched the replay multiple times.
“Each time I saw him just watching film, it told me that you could tell that this was something he wanted,” Ryan said. “And he saw how hard I had to work, and I was an undersized quarterback, too, and he took it upon himself to prepare himself for varsity.”
Sending a message
Ryan Mansell went 20-2 as the Legends' starting quarterback. He is Lancaster’s all-time leading passer (4,065 yards) and holds just about every school passing record, including passing yards in a single game (350), yards in a season (2,137) and touchdown passes in a game (5). He doesn’t brag about it, though. He is focused on his freshman year at Brockport, where is studying physical education and playing baseball.
Ryan is playing fall baseball at Brockport, but when he talks about his brother’s first varsity football game, he acknowledges that he misses football.
If he wants to make Brockport’s lineup as a baseball player, playing fall baseball is a must. Plus, at 5-9, he isn’t tall enough to be a college quarterback.
“But I’d go back and play high school football again,” Ryan said. "It’s different from anything else. You’re playing with the guys, you get ready for Friday nights, and there’s a certain sense of space and friendship between you and your teammates. You have that time and you cherish it.
“I want Jason to understand that, too.”
Jason made his first varsity start for Lancaster on Aug. 31. As Ryan was about to leave campus that afternoon, he sent his younger brother a text:
“Enjoy this game. You have three years left. I wish I had just one more game.”
Jason’s first start
While many college students enjoy their first Friday night on campus, Ryan traveled to Lancaster to watch Jason make his first varsity football start in a 54-22 win against Lockport.
For Kim, it wasn’t much different from all the other times she watched her sons play since the fourth grade.
“I’ve always been super-nervous when they play football,” Kim admitted. “When it’s your kids on the field, it’s definitely a little more nerve-wracking. I don’t know if it was any different, but I felt there was a little more pressure for Jason being a sophomore. But it’s stressful – you don’t want them to get hurt.”
As Ryan watched his younger brother complete 11 of 14 passes for 176 yards and a touchdown, he saw the confidence and the quick decisions his younger brother made.
“That was remarkable, how well he adjusted,” Ryan said. “It took me a couple games to become vocal, and I knew after I watched his first throw against Lockport, he was going to be fine. He rolled out to the right and made a great run, then went about 10 to 15 yards on the throw.”
A family tradition
The Mansells never pushed their children to play football, even though Kim, a Cleveland Hill graduate and a physical therapist, was raised on watching the Buffalo Bills. David is a 1989 Lancaster graduate and a chemistry teacher at Amherst High School, and he went into coaching when Kim was pregnant with Jason in 2002.
“It’s unique, because David also coaches the offensive line,” Rupp said. “But he really never coaches his son. He never has any input on the quarterback situation or the play-calling. It’s a totally separate entity. They’re on the same team and they go to the same home, but they never really cross paths on the field, if you will.”
David chuckles when he considers that his second son is beginning his varsity tenure. David also played football at Lancaster, for Len Jankiewicz, who retired in 2011 after 26 years as Legends coach.
“The tradition here is unbelievable,” David said. “To have the boys come through and be a part of it, this all unfolded well. I didn’t come back here to coach my kids. This was just part of a family tradition.
“Now, it’s just giving back. To have the kids come through, you have to stay back as a dad because I’m not coaching my kids. I’m happy to have him on the team, that’s my mentality. But it’s fun. Ryan had a great experience, and hopefully Jason and his whole crew can have the same type of positive experience.”
It would be easy to identify the Mansells as simply a football family, but Kim has seen how football has opened doors for more personal growth in her children. Even if watching her youngest son take snaps still makes her a little nervous.
“For Jason to be able to make his own name and do well, it’s more important, when all is said and done – as much as we are a football family – it’s about being a good person who has good values and high character,” Kim said. “Football gives you a platform to cultivate those traits, and I love it.
"I take pride that my kids and my family are able to excel on and, even more, off the field.”