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Final home game approaches for Manny Wilkins, ASU football seniors

(AP Photo/Ralph Freso)

TEMPE, Ariz. — The Sun Devils’ home game in Tempe on Saturday against UCLA will be of great magnitude for two reasons.

Number one, it has big implications in the Pac-12 South division standings. If ASU wins out, they can play in the Pac-12 Championship game.

Secondly, it will be Senior Day for ASU football.

Among the players slated to play for the final time at Sun Devil Stadium in Tempe is Manny Wilkins, the quarterback who has started in maroon and gold the past three seasons.

“I kind of just realized that the end is here. It’s going to be my last game at Sun Devil Stadium. I know it’s going to be very emotional,” he said Wednesday. “Put a lot of hard work, a lot of dedication and I grew up tremendously here. So this place will forever be special to me. And I know when I walk out that tunnel for the last time, it’s going to be hard to comprehend it.”

Wilkins is approaching 8,000 passing yards for his career, having recorded 2,329 in 2016, 3,270 in 2017 and 2,250 this year. For his career, he has tossed 47 touchdowns with 20 interceptions. He also has rushed for 894 yards and 16 touchdowns.

Furthermore, he has remained starter since he got the job, even after quarterback Blake Barnett transferred from Alabama prior to last season.

“It’s the story of a boy turning into a man, really,” Wilkins said. “I’ve been through so much, so many opportunities to just give up. So many opportunities to just accept what was being put in front of me, but that’s not how I was raised. So like I said, it’s just been a hell of a ride, and I look forward to giving Sun Devil nation, my teammates, my coaches, this program, this university a win my last time here.”

Other seniors will play in Tempe for the final time, too, like linebacker Koron Crump, defensive lineman Renell Wren, safety Jalen Harvey and others. As is typical on a Senior Day, there will be a pre-game ceremony to honor the group.

“I wouldn’t call it a distraction,” Wilkins said. “I think this is more so for your family, this is more so to pay homage to those that put you in the shoes that we’re in today, out of respect for them. It’s going to be whoever — It’s going to be like — it will be a distraction if you make it a distraction, is basically what I’m trying to say. But this will be a very special moment for all of our families as seniors just to say ‘thank you’ to them.”

It will be ASU’s first Senior Day under head coach Herm Edwards, who is a head coach in college football for the first time in his career.

“I have no idea. I don’t know. I have to go through it,” Edwards said when asked what it will be like. “I’ve gone to a high school game where it was senior day, a couple Fridays ago. I couldn’t attend my son’s senior day, my wife did. He was an athlete at San Diego State. I was coaching football.”

Edwards characterized the game as an important day for families, whom he said he will address.

“Most of these kids I did not recruit — they were here before I got here,” he said. “But I’ve gotten to know them, I respect them, I respect what they have to do. And it’s hard when you’re a senior, when a new coach comes in. Because you don’t know exactly what he’s thinking or how he’s going to do things, and I’ve been fortunate to garner some relationships with some of them. And I’m just going to thank their parents for the job they did of parenting. That’s a hard job and I understand that.

“So that’s what I’ll do this week, and I’ll figure it out. As they go and get introduced and all the other — they kind of told me how to do it and going, ‘Okay.’ I’ve seen it. There’ll be some tears and there’ll be some emotion and all that. And then after that, they’re going to kick the ball off and we’re going to play football.”

Kickoff for the game against UCLA is slated for noon on ESPN 620 AM.

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