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Manning had played for Oregon State through 2019, but he believed it was time for him to step away. He went to middle school with MSU defensive back Tyrel Thomas, and being a free safety, he dreamed of playing alongside him.

Growing up in Los Angeles, Manning’s first offer to play in college was from MSU during former head coach Jeff Choate’s tenure. Once he decided to leave OSU, Manning vividly remembered calling Thomas, who encouraged him to join the Bobcats. With three safeties graduating, Manning’s addition would be a welcomed one.

“I felt like the place spoke for itself,” Manning said. “This decision wasn’t really hard.”

With Thomas, when he recovers from a knee surgery and returns to the field, Manning believes they can “do something special” at MSU (1-1). Until then, Manning has impressed in his first two games since transferring nearly two years ago. The junior will play an integral part of the No. 13-ranked Bobcats’ defense when they host San Diego (0-2) at 1 p.m. Saturday at Bobcat Stadium.

Aside from his relationship with Thomas, Manning knew fellow safety and FBS transfer Tre Webb from their days of playing youth football. Manning said the team’s camaraderie was a highlight of becoming a Bobcat.

“It makes it so much easier for me personally to do my job knowing that the other person next to you is going to do their job as well,” Manning said.

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Colton Pool can be reached at cpool@dailychronicle.com or 406-582-2690. Follow him on Twitter @CPoolReporter.