Playing in front of the bright lights in New York isn't easy for athletes, but you wouldn't have guessed that watching Nick Mangold. Roughly a decade's worth of dominance in the trenches puts into perspective how special of a talent he was.
The Jets drafted Mangold with the No. 29 overall pick back in 2006. He finished his career with seven trips to the Pro Bowl and was named an All-Pro center from 2009-11. Many fans believe he's one of the best players to ever suit up for the franchise.
Mangold officially announced his retirement from the NFL on April 17, 2018. Sometimes athletes need time to figure out what their next career move will be, but the former All-Pro offensive lineman has already found a new passion.
We sat down with Mangold to discuss his thoughts on the Jets' recent moves, his own BBQ sauce, the latest allegations on Woody Johnson, the upcoming NFL season and more. Let's get this interview started.
The Spun: I want to ask you about the most recent news involving your former team. What’d you make of the Jets' decision to trade Jamal Adams?
Nick Mangold: I think Joe Douglas played it perfectly. He kept a lot of things close to the vest and still got an amazing haul in return. That kind of ammunition for the next two drafts is pretty impressive. He now has to prove that he can make the right picks. It’s going to be a big test, but I’m excited for the Jets’ direction.
The Spun: The NFL is entering unprecedented times with the coronavirus. If you were playing today, would you feel comfortable playing, or would you consider opting out?
NM: It would definitely be a decision that would not be taken lightly. A lot of it depends on where I was in my career. Early on I didn’t have kicks, but later on I did. In the end though, I would have taken the precautions necessary for my family to stay safe. But I think I would have been out there playing. Maybe I wouldn’t have seen them for four months, but it’d be difficult to take the whole year off.
The Spun: Do you think the NFL can survive without a bubble plan?
NM: I think the NBA is able to pull it off because the rosters are so much smaller. To try and pull that off with 80 players and staff members for each team would be a huge undertaking. It’d be difficult for sure, but hopefully the players are smart and go about it the right way. We’ve all seen that we need sports and we need that distraction, so hopefully we get an NFL season.
The Spun: Now I want to shift over to your post-football career. What inspired you to create Seventy Four BBQ Sauce?
NM: My love of barbecue started when we had assistant offensive line coach Ron Heller come in. He’s a certified barbecue judge up in Montana. So he held my hand and taught me everything he knew, and it exploded from there. I really enjoyed the process of cooking and the community sense you get from hosting barbecues. After a while I got tired of buying sauces from stores, so I figured I could make something better. I started tinkering with a million different variations as we went along. From there, we did some blind taste testing and other people enjoyed it as well. It was about a year ago when we started the process. I thought it’d be cool going from an entertainer in the NFL to a creator and share my love of barbecue with other people.
The Spun: If you had to compare your BBQ sauce’s style to an NFL player, who would it be?
NM: So I have four kids, and my goal is to have four sauces with each one inspired by one of my kids. Right now, we got two sauces. The first one, the “OG,” is for my first son. The “Spicy OG” is for my second son because he’s like a carbon copy of my first son, but he’s a firecracker. I got two daughters that I’m working on sauces for them right now. It’s nice to have a passion project that’s intertwined with my family.
The Spun: Looking back at your career, who was the toughest defensive player you went up against in the trenches?
NM: It has to be Vince Wilfork, hands down. We went against each other 23 times over the course of my career. Just by looking at him you could see he’s tough to move and a strong guy. But he was also athletic and explosive, so he was a challenge to go up against every time.
The Spun: Do you think Rex Ryan could return to coaching in the NFL, or do you think he’s sticking to TV?
NM: I think if the right opportunity came to him, he’d probably want to take it again. Right now, he seems to be enjoying the TV life and doesn’t take himself too seriously. I wouldn’t want to leave that good thing if I were him, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he left for the right opportunity.
The Spun: The Jets had a special run during the 2009-10 seasons. Why do you think the team just couldn’t sustain that level of success?
NM: Multiple reasons led to it, which was unfortunate because you think things are looking up after back-to-back AFC Championship appearances. It’s tough to pinpoint to one though because we just had so many issues after the 2010 season.
The Spun: Sore subject here, but when the “Butt Fumble” happened did you think it would go viral the way it did?
NM: No, you don’t really have time to think about it during the game. The next day we were talking about it and saw it on SportsCenter. I kind of thought it would blow over, but it never really did. It’s disappointing because a lot of people are remembered by one play, so it’s unfortunate.
The Spun: The Jets drafted an OL in the first round for the first time since 2006. What are your thoughts on Mekhi Becton?
NM: I’m excited for him. It’s going to be an interesting year not having an offseason or rookie camp. It’ll be a challenge for Mekhi, but he has all the tools. You just don’t know yet because this offseason is different than most years, but it’s going to be interesting to see how he performs.
The Spun: Woody Johnson was recently accused of making racist remarks. You met him, what was your initial reaction to hearing that story?
NM: From everything I know, Woody is a standup guy. I don’t see those type of words ever coming out of his mouth. I was disappointed for him and his family to have to deal with this, as well as the team because that’s not the Woody I know.
The Spun: Who’s the one offensive lineman right now that you like to watch?
NM: You know, I now see as a fan how difficult it is to watch the offensive line from your TV because the camera likes to follow the ball. I do like the young kid on the Colts, Quenton Nelson. He’s got a nice mean streak to him and he pulls well in space.
The Spun: Do you think college football will have a tougher time pulling off a season than the NFL?
NM: It’s going to be tricky because if there aren’t classes going on in school, how can you say we can still have a football season? I don’t know what college is going to do, and it’s even harder because you’re asking a lot out of 19-year-old kids.
The Spun: Who do you think is the best quarterback from your time in the NFL?
NM: My vote is going to Tom Brady. The way he was able to win consistently for so many years, you can’t really take that away from him.
The Spun: Looking back at your time playing football. What moment was your favorite whether it was college or pros?
NM: I was very fortunate to win a national championship with Ohio State, play Michigan several years and play against top talent in the NFL. I have plenty of fond memories.
The Spun: Do former Ohio State and Michigan players still trash talk each other?
NM: Of course. David Harris and I would have a good bit of fun leading up to the big game. It’s something that is pretty neat between the two schools.
The Spun: How do you feel about your chances of making the Hall of Fame?
NM: I don’t really think about it too much because I can’t control it. I did what I could do on the field. If it happens, I’ll be ecstatic, and it’d be unbelievable. Since I can’t control it though, I try not to worry about it.
Mangold will be eligible for the Hall of Fame in 2023. There is no denying that he's one of the best offensive linemen of his era. Whether or not he'll be inducted into Canton is still up in the air though.
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