Angelo Mangiro left Roxbury (N.J.) High School as a four-star offensive lineman in football and a 3.5 student in the classroom. Other than a few struggles with reading and writing, the Penn State-bound Mangiro had little reason to believe something was holding him back from learning.
That's why he was more than a bit surprised when, after taking a series of routine placement exams given to incoming students and some followup tests, he was diagnosed with dyslexia.
Mangiro refused to let that slow him down, however. The Nittany Lions redshirt junior was named to his third academic all-Big Ten team in October and received his degree in criminology earlier this month.
On the field, he has helped the Lions' undermanned and young offensive line by playing at four positions and starting at three - nine games at his normal position at center, two at right tackle, and one at left guard. The movement from one side of the line to the other is seen as challenging to a dyslexic, who often reads words and letter sequences in reverse.
But he calls it "not that big of a deal."
"I never let that affect me," the 6-foot-3, 312-pound Mangiro said last month. "I never used it as an excuse. I joke around about it a little bit but I never let that hold me back. I use it as a reason to do that much more and work that much harder."
December has been an exciting month for Mangiro. Not only did he earn his undergraduate degree, but he will be playing in his first career bowl game Saturday at Yankee Stadium, about 50 miles from his home in Roxbury, N.J., in the Pinstripe Bowl against Boston College.
Mangiro has been particularly proud of his ability to learn a new playbook this season for a new coach in James Franklin. He said his dyslexia would affect him when he wasn't 100 percent interested in what he was reading. The playbook, however, has his full attention.
"Football is something I really love and that I enjoy doing," he said. "Learning the playbook is something I take pride in. I consider myself a football-savvy guy. I picked up our playbook pretty quickly, and also the different positions."
The offensive line, where only one starter returned from last season, has struggled much of the season, but Mangiro has been a team guy utilizing his versatility. He has made progress since his first season on campus when he redshirted and played on the scout team against future NFL defensive tackles Devon Still and Jordan Hill.
This season, as one of the older members of the line, he has tried to stay consistent.
"I just went to work every day," Mangiro said. "That's kind of my personality - work hard, lead by example. I definitely got more vocal this year. I have great teammates, and those guys worked hard together. We got after it during practice and we learned a lot and grew up. We've still got more growing up to do."
The Lions have one more game this season, and Mangiro couldn't be more thrilled that he'll play it in Yankee Stadium. He is a diehard Yankees fan, having grown up a devoted follower of Derek Jeter, Andy Pettitte, Jorge Posada, and Mariano Rivera.
"Those were my guys," he said. "So I'm extremely excited to be able to play on the same field that those guys played on. It's going to be special."