It's hard to call quarterback Tanner Mangum (Eagle, Idaho/Eagle) a Cinderella story when he has been the state's top signal-caller since his freshman year. It was still amazing to watch Mangum's meteoric rise this past spring/summer culminating in his selection to the Under Armour All-America Game on Friday.
Last spring, Mangum wasn't even rated among the top 90 quarterbacks in the nation. On Friday, the American Family Insurance Tour made a stop in Boise, Idaho, to present Mangum with his Under Armour All-American jersey, the first player from his state to ever receive such an honor.
"This is like a dream come true," Mangum said. "I mean, I've watched every game but this is something I never saw happening for me. Being from Idaho, we don't get a lot of publicity and this game brings out the best players in the country. All the top guys from Florida, Texas and California play in this one and I never saw it as a possibility but I'm just so thankful for the opportunity."
Eagle coach Paul Peterson calls Mangum a special talent and isn't surprised at all with the attention his star quarterback has received.
"Tanner is exceptionally smart and a real student of the game," Peterson said. "He has studied this game his whole life, I mean he started playing quarterback in the second grade. He has such a high football IQ and can process information on the field so quickly.
"When you combine that with one of the quickest releases I've ever seen, it makes him a unique player. He's able to process what's happening and then get rid of the ball and get it on target faster and more accurately than anyone I've seen in the 23 years I've been involved in coaching."
Mangum started his high school career playing for Boise (Idaho) Timberline and showed right away he was a special talent. As a freshman starter, the signal-caller threw for 335 yards and four touchdowns in his first varsity game and went on to have an All-State season. He finished the year throwing for 2,855 yards and 29 touchdowns with just eight interceptions and began to draw interest from local powerhouse Boise State along with his church school, BYU.
The quarterback had another solid year as a sophomore but Timberline finished just 3-6 and the summer before his junior year, the family made the controversial move of transferring to play at Eagle.
"It was one of the craziest six months I've ever experienced," Peterson said. "People were going crazy, saying we recruited Tanner, there was hate mail, a full scale investigation. Honestly, it really wasn't a football decision for the family. They moved into Eagle and just wanted a better life, not just for Tanner but for everyone.
"Tanner was one of the most well-known athletes in the state and going from a small school that didn't have a lot of success at the time raised a lot of flags for a lot of people for sure. I never contacted them though, they reached out to us but we were definitely excited to have a talent like Tanner in the program."
Mangum's junior season opened with a bang as he threw for 354 yards and four touchdowns in a 42-25 Mustangs win. The next game, Mangum suffered a broken collarbone and missed the rest of the regular season.
"I hated being on the sideline and missing all those games but I decided to make the most of it," Mangum said. "I watched and studied and learned a lot about the mental side of the game. I tried to be a better teammate and rally the guys when they looked down. It was a learning experience for sure but in some ways, it made me better."
This past spring, Mangum put it all together and raised his stock more than just about anyone else in the Class of 2012. He attended the loaded Nike camp at Stanford and competed throw for throw with fellow Under Armour All-Americans Zach Kline (Danville, Calif./San Ramon Valley) and Connor Brewer (Scottsdale, Ariz./Chaparral), among others.
He was selected to participate in both the Elite 11 QB Camp and The Opening, a national 7 on 7 event on the Nike campus in Oregon featuring the top 150 players in the nation. He was rated the top signal-caller at The Opening and then won MVP honors at the Elite 11 as well. An invite to the Under Armour game soon followed.
"I can't put in to words how great this last summer was for me," Mangum said. "I just love to compete and it's funny because I know going into a lot of those events, most of the players there had no idea who I was. When they asked where I was from and I said Idaho, they just kind of laughed. My whole goal was to just have fun and I didn't put any pressure on myself at all and I think that helped me.
"I've turned the page now though and I'm focusing on just one thing and that's winning a state title. We have yet to do that here so hopefully this is our year. Once I graduate, I'll be leaving for my LDS mission and then I'll be back at BYU in 2014 and ready to get going. It has really been a great ride for me and my family and I've very excited to see what God has planned for me next."
Greg Biggins covers recruiting in the West region. He can be reached at Greg.Biggins@espn.com.