DALLAS -- With one declaration, ESPN 150 defensive tackle Justin Manning (Dallas/Kimball) did more than verbally commit.
He officially became his own identity -- and decided against continuing a legacy.
The Kimball High School auditorium in Dallas’ Oak Cliff community erupted as Manning, one of the nation’s best defensive players, announced to family, friends and school representatives that he would play college football at Texas A&M. With the move, Manning became the Aggies’ 33rd overall commit of the 2013 recruiting class and the fifth defensive tackle of the class to give his pledge.
Ranked No. 88 in the ESPN 150, Manning chose Texas A&M over Oklahoma and TCU. Manning, recruited by wide receivers coach David Beaty, chose against following the footsteps of his older brother, DeMarcus Granger, a former Kimball star who played on Oklahoma’s defensive line from 2006-09.
“I can trust [A&M], and I feel like it’ll be a challenge,” Manning said. “I feel like I’m challenging myself to be better.
“Oklahoma has been my dream school since Day 1. The only doubts I had about them was when I arrived, would I feel too comfortable?”
Manning has gone on the record several times to discuss how difficult his process was. All three schools were very much alive in the race, but he said the decision ultimately came down to trust and potential success. The Aggies, under coach Kevin Sumlin and led by quarterback Johnny Manziel, have been outstanding in their first year in the SEC.
What added to Manning’s decision is how this year’s team is relatively young on both sides of the ball. Manziel is a redshirt freshman. One of the Aggies’ primary defensive players, defensive lineman Damontre Moore, is a junior.
“They have a lot of talent there, and I feel like I can get a national championship at least three years,” Manning said. “I’ve gone through my high school career trying to get to state, and when I think about it, it’s almost impossible to get to state if you don’t have talent at each position.”
Manning thanked the coaching staffs at Oklahoma and TCU for recruiting him and expects big things from both programs in the future. Oklahoma is an established Big 12 competitor that is in the running for a conference title every year. TCU has established itself as a Big 12 power in its first year.
“It was close; it was always close,” Manning said. “With TCU, it’s just a great school. The thing that stuck out is [cornerbacks] Coach [Clay] Jennings. Just the way he is, I feel like I’m back at high school with them. It’s a comfortable feeling.”
For Manning, the most comfort, however, relies in College Station, Texas. He expects to come in and be an immediate impact player for a program he has high expectations for.
“Bring your popcorn,” he said. “You’ll see.”