EAST LANSING - Jaren Mangham sat in the South Florida training room getting taped up before one of his games this fall. He looked up at the television watched his younger brother, Jaden, making an immediate impact at safety for Michigan State football as a true freshman.
A proud moment led to a premonition.
"Everyone was like, 'Bro, wouldn't that be cool if you were playing with your brother?'" the former Detroit Cass Tech running back recalled Wednesday. "I was like, 'Yeah, that would be pretty sweet if I was playing with him.'"
"Now look at me. That's crazy. That was just like six months ago. Now, I'm right here."
It was a circuitous path for the older Mangham to become a Spartan. He picked Colorado out of high school and stuck with his choice when a new coach took over before he arrived in 2019 - Mel Tucker.
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Tucker departed for MSU after that season, then Mangham transferred to South Florida in 2020. After three seasons in the Bulls' backfield and with his degree in hand, he decided it was time to return home for his final season as a graduate transfer. And it meant a family first, being able to finally play alongside Jaden.
"It's kind of crazy. It's almost like a full circle," said Jaren, who has 1,251 rushing yards and 23 touchdowns in 31 career collegiate games. "Just because I go out to Colorado, and then who would have known that I'd be right back at Michigan State with the same exact coach AND my little brother on the (team), too. It was kind of a unique moment.
"I didn't get to really digest it until after it already happened. And I just sat back and just thought, 'Wow, it really has been a long journey.' And I'm just excited to be back home, that's really what I'm grateful for."
Mangham committed to Colorado in 2018 over Mark Dantonio and MSU, then kept his pledge for the Buffaloes' 2019 class once coach Mike MacIntyre was fired and replaced by Tucker. One of Tucker's first tasks upon being hired was to visit recruits to keep the class intact.
That visit made an immediate impression and kept Mangham headed to Boulder as an early enrollee.
"The first time, I really didn't know him that much. … I remember him getting hired, and I think it was two days or the next day probably, he was on a plane," Mangham recalled. "He was in my living room, and we were just chopping it up and had a great talk."
That mutual trust turned into a big role for Mangham in Colorado's 2019 offense, led by current Spartans offensive coordinator Jay Johnson and offensive line coach Chris Kapilovic. The 6-foot-2, 230-pounder got one start and played in all 12 games as a true freshman, carrying 107 times for 441 yards - eighth-most by a freshman in program history - and three touchdowns.
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Tucker, however, left for MSU that fall. Mangham eventually decided to leave Colorado after playing four games in 2020 under Karl Dorrell and getting just 23 carries for 35 yards, including two TDs. Rejoining Tucker was one of his options then, he said, but the Spartans added Kenneth Walker III and Harold Joiner III to a crowded running back room.
"I considered a lot of schools in my first transfer," Mangham said. "It was hard, just because that was my first process of losing a coach. But at the end of the day, I knew it was a business. So there wasn't no love lost or anything like that."
At the same time, his younger brother Jaden blossomed into a four-star prospect for Cass Tech and was looking at a number of schools. Including going to MSU to play for Tucker.
"I really didn't want to get into his recruiting process that much, just because he's gonna be the one playing there. And he's gonna be the one suiting up, he's gonna be the one going to school there. He has to follow his heart," Jaren recalled Wednesday. "So I really gave him the best big brother advice I could give him and kind of laid down a foundation. And it's always better to have a guide as your older brother that's already doing it and kind of already has experience in the stuff that you want to do."
Jaden ended up joining MSU's 2022 recruiting class, enrolling early last January. He emerged to start two games at safety with Xavier Henderson injured before he got hurt against Ohio State and missed two games. The younger Mangham finished with 20 tackles over 229 snaps in nine games.
"Getting here and being able to learn everything, it slowed everything down when I went into fall camp," Jaden said in October. "Coming in, it was definitely a little struggle. But as time went on, learning everything just became so much easier and smooth."
The older Mangham headed to South Florida, where he earned an American Athletic Conference all-league honorable mention in 2021 after rushing for 15 touchdowns. Last season, he played in just four games due to an ankle injury, rushing for 104 yards on 24 carries and three touchdowns.
And then came time to make another decision about making another move as a graduate transfer. And another talk with Tucker.
"This time around, I was already a year under him. It was just more so he's kinda like family, you know what I'm saying?" Jaren Mangham said. "There really wasn't ordinary recruiting talk, just trying to get to know (each other). It's like we never skipped a beat. He walked in, shared a couple of laughs, got to business, loved what I heard, loved what my brother told me about the program. And that's really just kinda how it went."
And did Jaden play a role in his recruitment?
"He kept asking me, 'Jared, are you gonna come?' I'm like, 'I don't know. If God leads me there.' And He did," Jaren said. "That's where my heart led me, and it led me back here. Home. And what better place to be?"
That move led Jaren Mangham into a crowded running back room that has returning starter Jalen Berger along with program veterans Joiner, Davion Primm and Jordon Simmons returning, as well as the additions of Connecticut transfer Nathan Carter and incoming freshman Jaelon Barbarin.
In many ways, a full-circle chance to prove himself once again to Tucker. And his home state.
"I kind of looked at this room as a challenge. And I always love having a great room, and I've never feared no competition or anything like that," Mangham said. "I feel like competition builds character, and I feel like it also helps everyone in the room get better. So having a great RB room like that, it's just gonna help push everyone further and help everyone reach that next level."
MSU added one player to its 2023 class during the first day of the reopened signing period.
The Spartans landed three-star safety Philipp Davis from Lake Wales, Florida, the 16th high school addition to the 2023 class. The 6-1, 175-pound Davis picked MSU over Toledo and is the No. 103 safety in the nation and the 1,129th-best player in his class according 247Sports Composite rankings.
Linebacker Jacoby Windmon on Wednesday agreed in 15th District Court in Ann Arbor to enter a diversionary program for his role in the Oct. 29 tunnel fight at Michigan Stadium. He will have another pretrial hearing March 1. If accepted into the diversionary program, his misdemeanor charge of assault and battery would be dismissed.
Contact Chris Solari: firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @chrissolari.
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This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Michigan State RB Jared Mangham 'excited' for unique homecoming