Nick Mangold played Center for the Jets for 11 years, accumulating multiple All-Pros and Pro Bowl appearances to his resume. He is arguably one of the best players the team has ever had. On Tuesday I was fortunate enough to speak with Nick on the current landscape of the Jets, and touched on some memories of the gridiron. We also got to talk about his endeavors outside of football, talking food and his latest passion which is his own brand of BBQ sauce. As you can expect, Nick was a great guy and I appreciate the time he took out of his day to speak with me. The transcript of our interview is below, and I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.
Thomas Christopher: So the Jets aren’t doing too hot right now, how are you feeling about the current landscape of the team? And what do you think can be improved going forward? I know it’s been a tough year for them.
Nick Mangold: Yeah, not doing so hot I think is an understatement there. I think that starting out 0-7 is obviously very frustrating and difficult, and it’s really difficult for the fans, who really have no control over it. You just try to hope everything’s being worked on, and it can get frustrating. I know guys in the locker room are just as frustrated, but at least they feel that they can do something about it. I think improving-wise, all facets need to look to improve. Currently, I can’t say there’s too many bright spots right now.
TC: I agree with you there. I know your son is a big Jets’ fan himself with you spending your career with the team. I’m sure he’s having issues with the way the team’s been playing as well. I’m sure he’s not liking it too much either.
NM: Yeah, he’s funny because it’s one of those things where his fandom isn’t as ‘die hard’, you know. It’s just kind of in his DNA. It doesn’t affect him as much as it affects other people. But we’ll get done watching the game and he’ll be like ‘so we lost again, huh’ and I’ll be like ‘yeah, they lost again’. He’ll go ‘well that stinks’. But then he’ll carry on. At least he’s able to put it in his own vacuum.
TC: The Jets have been playing bad. Before you got drafted, the Jets weren’t doing so well either. Do you have any advice for guys entering their prime - from college to younger free agents - as to why they should be okay with joining the Jets; why they should have hope? Whether in Free Agency or in the draft?
NM: Yeah, I think the biggest thing is that you never want to shy away from any type of challenge. If you get an opportunity to play in the NFL, you take it, no matter where it is.
TC: Speaking of college, what was the hardest transition for you, from going to college to the NFL?
NM: For one, I think the speed of the game. When you’re in college you go against some great defensive lineman. But then it’s maybe every other game, or two games in a row and then you go against someone who’s just a little lesser. When you get to the NFL, everyone is at the pinnacle of their position. So every week is a challenge. So I think the speed, and the talent level, coupled in with the fact that it’s now your job. It’s not like you’re still going to go to class, then you get to do a little bit of practice, and then play. You spend your whole work day there, and it’s a year-round business. It was kind of a crazy transition going from what you think is the pinnacle of football in college, to then moving up to the NFL and finding out that there’s so much more.
TC: Do you have any favorite memories as a Jet? I heard you and Mark talk about the 4th and 1 against San Diego on the episode of ‘Grilled’. Do you have a specific favorite?
NM: Yeah, there’s a ton of favorite moments. Beating New England up, in New England, in the playoff game was huge. But as Mark and I were saying, that 4th and 1 in San Diego during the playoff game in 2010. They knew we were going to run the ball, we knew we were going to run the ball. The coaches believed in us to get that first down to seal the game. We just went out there and imposed our will. It was a great feeling.
TC: Is there an accomplishment in your career that you’re most proud of? You’ve been an All-Pro and Pro Bowler multiple times, is there an accomplishment that sticks out to you as you look back on your career?
NM: Yeah, I think the accolades are something you’re always going to be proud of. But I think it’s about being the same guy everyday. I don’t think I was late one time in 11 years. You know, the accountability. Putting forth your best effort is what I’m most proud of in my career.
TC: Do you have a favorite coach, from college to the NFL ranks; whether positional or a head coach?
NM: Yeah, Bill Callahan. He came to us in 2008 as an offensive line coach. He was with us for 5 years. He’s such an amazing football coach, offensive line coach, and person as well. He’s one of the smartest people I’ve ever been around. It definitely helped my career being able to be coached by him.
TC: So you’ve been around a lot of big name athletes, and I’m sure celebrities as well. Was there anyone that you were particularly star-struck by?
NM: Ooh, that’s a good question. I would have to say it was the first time I met Dave Matthews. That was a very surreal moment. You listen to their music for so long, then to actually meet them. It was so crazy.
TC: I heard you didn’t get into grilling until you got into the NFL. Who got you into grilling, and what led you to creating your own 74 BBQ sauce?
NM: It was actually my wife. I always had a grill, and it was always just kind of there. I’d cook burgers, chicken; that’s about it. But for one of my early Father’s Day presents she got me a ‘big green egg’. So I dabbled in it; wasn’t quite sure how to take full advantage of it. But we had our assistant offensive line coach Ron Heller come in. He’s a certified BBQ judge. He just ignited the BBQ passion and showed me the ropes. I realized that whole world of cooking and it just exploded from there. After about a year or two I got tired of buying sauce from the store so I decided to make my own. Started to make my own, I enjoyed it, and would serve it to people who were having cookouts. People are never going to say anything bad about food you feed them while they’re there, so I was never sure if it was really good. Then my partner took it out and did some blind tastings and got some good feedback from that. So we decided to do something. About 1-2 years ago we were sitting around thinking what could I do; is there a passion project - how do we find what that passion is. I think I was talking to him while he was cooking something and I was like, ‘well I really like cooking’. So we just went down the rabbit hole. Right now we have two out, we’re looking to have four; one for each of my kids. A portion of proceeds from every bottle goes to the Answer the Call Foundation which does great work in the NY area taking care of families of fallen first responders in the line of duty. It’s neat to have a passion project that does some good in the world. It’s also pretty awesome to go downstairs and grab a bottle of my own sauce without having to do anything, so it’s kind of a neat perk.
TC: Absolutely. Hey, for someone who didn’t really start cooking until you got into the NFL, I’ve been watching your ‘Grilled’ episodes, and you really whip it up now. The shredded beef fajitas look amazing. Really delectable.
NM: Oh yeah, that one came out really awesome. I do all the recipes and cooking for ‘Grilled’, and trying to come up with what we wanted to do for Mark. I always joke around with Mark that all he ever serves me are fajitas, so I thought it would be funny if I served a fajita. And then I thought ‘how can we jazz that up a little bit’. So smoking a chuck roast, and chopping it up worked out really well. It’s a shame the world we live in has to be virtual because it came out fantastic, and he probably would have crushed three of four of them. It would have been fun to see on camera.
TC: So you have the OG BBQ, and the OG Spicy BBQ after your oldest, and second-oldest. Do you have a name for the third one coming?
NM: Yeah. So, it’s boy-girl-boy-girl, are the order of my children; and so the first two are the boys, and the next two are the girls. That’s only because the OG was the boy, so it kind of fit in with the spicy one being the boy. The third one is still in research and development, trying to perfect a nice honey-BBQ sauce. Something with a nice sweetness to it without feeling like licking a piece of candy. The other one is for my second daughter who was born in the fall; she’s our little baby. Her and my wife really like Carolina-vinegar sauce. Really loves Carolina pulled pork. We make that one with apple cider. That one is done and ready to go. That’s my ‘Fall Ya’ll’ sauce. Hopefully we’ll get that out soon, but I want to get the honey BBQ out so we can get that done at the same time.
TC: I look forward to trying them out. That’s it from me, and I’d like to thank you for your time. You were a great player and were one of the players I looked up to on those teams and were a symbol of dedication for a long time. I’m appreciative I got to see you play and you had an excellent career. Thanks again for your time.
NM: Thanks man I appreciate it.