Nick Mangold is retiring a New York Jet, the epitome of a leader calling it an end to a career that will soon land him in Canton. This oft-beleaguered franchise will certainly never have another offensive lineman quite like Mangold, someone who embraced being a Jet like few before him.
It is hard to think of an offensive lineman, let alone a center, who was as consistent as Mangold during his 11 years with the Jets. The former first-round pick out of Ohio State, taken by the Jets at the tail end of the first round in 2006, exceeded every expectation placed on him during the entirety of his career, all spent here in New York. His play was strong, as evidenced by seven Pro Bowl selections and twice being tabbed an All-Pro.
But it was his leadership, his poise and his ability to calmly settle the offensive line that will stand out the most from his career. The mold was broken after Mangold was made.
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Always the personality, Mangold was quick with a quip or a joke or, very often, to teasingly put a media member in his or her place after a baiting question. At the end of the day, he was true to himself as a man, even if it wasn’t always popular.
Mangold drew some flack for his support of Republican presidential candidates Mitt Romney and current President Donald Trump, sometimes appearing at political rallies for these two. He never tiptoed around his views or beliefs, it wasn’t in his nature.
On the field, Jets fans should count themselves blessed that Mangold was on their team because he was one of them.
Fiery, he is one of the few players to come through the locker room at the Meadowlands who bled his team’s colors. When on the field, Mangold wanted nothing more than to punch his team into the end zone.
He had a dirty job but Mangold wouldn’t have it any other way. In many ways, this personifies the ethos of the Jets fan. There was a chip on his shoulder, to say the least.
Unlike many of the other franchises in this area, the Jets aren’t quite as glamorous. For years they played second fiddle in a stadium named after their crosstown rival. They have just one championship in their five decades on the field and precious few highlights. Jets fans have thick skin now from years of suffering and in Mangold, they had a player who got it.
He wasn’t the flashy player that came in with promise then fizzled out. Instead, the former Jets center would come to work every day and demand the best — first and foremost he would demand the best from himself. But he wasn’t afraid to tell a teammate to step up or to get in the face of an opponent.
He was a blue-collar guy with a lunch pail mentality. All he wanted to do every day was work and grind. In so many ways, he personified the mentality of the long-suffering fans of this team. He lived for the colors.
And when things got rocky in the locker room as they frequently did around this franchise over the past decade, that is when Mangold stood tall. He would be unflappable in his defense of his team and would stand-up for the 52 players around him. The green and white were first and foremost in his mind, something he carried that onto the field every Sunday.
It is fitting now that Mangold will sign a one-day contract to retire with the Jets, one last chance for fans to see one of the franchise’s all-time greats in the green he so passionately protected all these years.
Then, a handful of years from now, they’ll get the chance to rise again and cheer him one last time when he gets enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He will do so, as is deserving, as a Jet.
And he will be enshrined someday as one of ‘them’ – those fans crazy enough to cheer for this team after so many tough years. For in Mangold, the Jets fan had one of their own on the field each and every week.