Although Jared Wangler's father is a big part of University of Michigan football lore, the Wolverines might not have been as big a competition in Penn State's efforts to land the three-star linebacker as was another sport.
"I was actually more of a basketball player up until last year. I really wanted to play basketball in college," Wangler said. "But, as I continued to get bigger, I thought football was a better fit. I was getting better at football. I really have a passion for football."
The athletic Wangler grew into football, and, as he did, he found the Nittany Lions to be a good fit for him, as well. He made a verbal commitment to the Nittany Lions in May, picking Penn State over Michigan State, Cincinnati, Western Michigan and Boston College.
LSU extended a scholarship offer after Wangler made his announcement, but Wangler stayed pledged to the Lions.
"I think he's made a great choice," Warren De La Salle Collegiate School coach Paul Verska said. "He's got great feet. He's a hard worker. He's strong. He works hard in the weight room, very coachable, disciplined. He's very mature for his age. He'll be one of our captains this fall. I think he'd have a great career there."
Wangler has made several trips to Penn State before committing. He said his comfort level with the coaches was the deciding factor - he felt he had a great relationship with his recruiter and Lion linebacker coach Ron Vanderlinden, as well as head coach Bill O'Brien.
"In the one year he's been there, he's done great things, and I feel he's going to continue to do great things," Wangler said of O'Brien. "I really like how they stress academics. Coach O'Brien said they're not only trying to recruit great football players but they're trying to recruit great people as well. That really stood out to me. It shows what kind of a person he is.
"It definitely stood out to me that they had such limited scholarships to give. That they offered me, it meant so much," Wangler added.
A converted safety who transferred to De La Salle before the 2012 season, the 6-foot-2, 217-pound Wangler played the rover or field linebacker for Verska's Pilots, making 76 tackles, forcing two fumbles, recovering two fumbles, coming up with a pair of sacks and returning an interception for a touchdown.
"In our defense, our outside linebacker has to be a great player," Verska said. "We played Dearborn Fordson. They went to the [state] quarterfinals. We were winning 3-0. They were driving on us. The quarterback took a three-step drop. Jared made a tremendous read and got underneath a slant route. Jared jumped up in the air, picked it off and ran it back 80 yards for a touchdown. He turned that game around. I was like, 'Wow, athletically, that kid is a player.'"
Wangler said the Penn State coaches have told him they see him playing a similar role to that of Mike Hull in the Nittany Lions' defensive scheme.
"With our defense, the linebackers have a lot of speed [and do a lot] of drops into coverage. Obviously, you have to be big enough to go up in the box, but we do a lot with playing out in space and being very versatile," Wangler said. "I play well in space. I can come up and play the run, drop into coverage or come off the edge on blitzes. I really like coming up and hitting people."
Wangler said his favorite player and the player he's modeled his game around is Michigan linebacker Jake Ryan. It might seem unusual for a big-time recruit's favorite player to be a future opponent, but it makes more sense when one understands that Wangler has very close ties to Michigan football.
Wangler's father, John, quarterbacked the Wolverines to their first Rose Bowl win under Bo Schembechler in 1981, and his brother is a freshman walk-on at Michigan. His high school quarterback also is headed to Ann Arbor.
"I think it's going to be an interesting situation. If his brother gets playing time, his mother and father are going to have to wear those split jerseys," Verska said of Wangler facing the Wolverines in the Big Ten. "But Jared's making the right decision for Jared, and his dad and mom are behind him 100 percent."
The younger Wangler said he'll have extra incentive playing against his home-state colleges.
"I grew up around Michigan, but I also liked State. I was dying to play [at Michigan]," Wangler said. "I know a lot of kids on the team already. I know a lot of kids at State."