Center of Attention: Nick Mangold retires as member of Jets
By DENNIS WASZAK Jr.
FLORHAM PARK, N.J. (AP) Nick Mangold was the anchor of the New York Jets' offensive line for 11 seasons, a smart, reliable and tough dude who was one of the franchise's most consistently good players.
His sharp wit and sarcasm made him a favorite of teammates and fans. Mangold also rocked a big, bushy beard and long blond hair that made him look more like he belonged on a Viking ship than a football field.
But from 2006 until through 2016, Mangold was one of the NFL's best players at his position. On Tuesday, he was again the center of attention as he signed a one-day contract with the Jets to officially retire as a member of the team.
"I've had the good fortune of signing three contracts with the New York Jets," Mangold said while holding his 3-year-old daughter Eloise. "This was the first one I signed with a child on my lap."
The 34-year-old Mangold, wearing his Jets cap backward as he always did during his playing days, was honored during a ceremony that included a framed No. 74 jersey displayed on the podium, a video featuring career highlights and some music from Dave Matthews Band - one of his favorites - playing over the speakers as guests arrived.
The team feted the seven-time Pro Bowl selection, who announced his retirement last week , with his wife Jennifer and their three children in attendance, along with several other members of his family, including his sister Holley, a member of the 2012 U.S. Olympic weightlifting team. Former teammates D'Brickashaw Ferguson, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Brandon Moore and Willie Colon were there, too, as was former Jets center John Schmitt from the 1969 Super Bowl-winning team, and current coach Todd Bowles and general manager Mike Maccagnan.
Mangold was a first-round draft pick out of Ohio State in 2006 and immediately became a starter for New York. He made his first Pro Bowl in 2008, and finished with the second-most all-star honors in franchise history. Only offensive tackle Winston Hill with eight AFL/NFL selections has more.
"We knew he was smart, we knew he was tough and we knew he would give us everything he had on the field," acting owner Christopher Johnson said of the team drafting Mangold.
"What we didn't know was how much he would embrace our organization and this community. My vivid memories of him are running out of the tunnel wearing a first responders' hat, carrying the American flag or serving as Santa Claus for a charity event.
"Best Santa Claus ever, by the way."
Mangold played in only eight games in 2016 because of ankle and foot injuries that landed him on the injured reserve list for the final month. He didn't play last season after being released by New York in February 2017.
"Going through the injury was difficult," Mangold said. "But then as I was rehabbing and realized that I probably wouldn't be able to play at the level I wanted to play at and going through the (2017) season, I always thought that I was going to miss it. Like, something was going to happen where I'd miss it and be like, `I need to be out there. I need to be on the field.' And that never came.
"That's kind of where I knew: I'm in a good spot."
Mangold added that spending increased time with his kids has helped keep him busy, keeping his mind off football. There were, however, some things he has missed.
"The hot and cold tubs," he said, drawing laughs. "It's really difficult to do that at home."
There was also the camaraderie of being with teammates, trying to deliver wins for the Jets.
"But, as far as football, I did what I could do," Mangold said. "And I was done."
Mangold, who grew up in Centerville, Ohio, plans to remain in the New Jersey area with his family, although he's unsure what's next for him.
"Well, my golf game has really suffered because of football," he said with a straight face.
"So, I'm looking forward to improving on that. Beyond that, I don't know. It's funny being retired at 34 and your career's over at 34 when there's still so much left to do."
Maybe Mangold will eventually find his way into the political game. A report earlier this year linked him to a potential seat in the U.S. House of Representatives.
"I found it funny when that came out because that was based off of a five-minute conversation," Mangold said with a laugh. "And next thing I know I was getting phone calls and headlines and stuff and I got a good chuckle out of that, especially because technically I haven't graduated college yet. So, I don't think I'm qualified."
Speaking of which, Mangold plans to take care of that one class to complete his degree. Until then, though, he'll enjoy celebrating one of the best careers in Jets history.
"To play in this city and be a part of it for 11 years," Mangold said, "has been one of the greatest things I could have ever asked for."
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Updated April 24, 2018