Mangiro, arguably the best player in New Jersey and one of the top offensive linemen in the nation, held a press conference July 24 to announced his commitment to Penn State. It was an agonizing decision for Mangiro, who grew up a Nittany Lion fan but felt pressure to stay in-state and play for Greg Schiano at Rutgers. The morning on the day before making his announcement, Mangiro spoke with the Scarlet Knights' head coach at Schiano's request. Mangiro was still up in the air at that point.
He listened to the pitch from Schiano, a coach he says he has "deep respect for," and hung up the phone. Mangiro went about the day as best as he could and then, like a typical teenager, went out on Saturday night. He returned home at 11 p.m. and after spending some time in his room thinking, went downstairs to the basement.
Mangiro sat in a chair and stared at a photo hanging on the wall; it was of his deceased grandmother. Then Hope, his cat, jumped onto the table where Mangiro's mother keeps her sewing machine, just below the photo. While Mangiro continued to look at the photo, he noticed the cat was staring at him.
Mangiro said he was praying all week long for a sign on where to commit. He had narrowed the list to Penn State and Rutgers. Though Ohio State and Pittsburgh were still in the back of his mind, it was clearly coming down to the Nittany Lions and Scarlet Knights.
Mangiro said he would drive through his hometown and would see an "R" decal (for Rutgers) on the back of a car, then a moment later, he'd see car sporting a Penn State sticker. No matter where he looked, there was no clear indication of which school he should choose.
But then, as he locked eyes with Hope, he had his sign. It was Penn State.
The clincher? Hope is a white cat with blue eyes. The Nittany Lions' team colors are blue and white.
"That's when I finally said to myself, this is it," Mangiro said. "I said, this is the place."
He is quick to point out that the decision was not based solely on the cat — he was leaning toward Penn State for several weeks.
"But that was the moment it sort of clicked," Mangiro said.
The recruit said he didn't think he'd sleep much that night because he'd be pondering his decision and second-guessing himself. He was right about not sleeping much, but for other reasons.
"I was so wired from my decision, so excited, really happy actually," Mangiro said. "I just stayed up all night, smiling — knowing I was going to Penn State."
A Cheshire grin if there ever was one.
Kristian R. Dyer can be reached for comment at KristianRDyer@yahoo.com and followed at twitter.com/kdyer1012