Believe it or not, but Nick Mangold is the same affable, 6′4″, 300-pound man I spoke with last summer, who loves gaming and technology, but remains driven by football.
Sure, my BlackBerry caught his eye, sparking a brief discussion about the merits of the 9700’s trackpad over the trackball on other devices. But that came second to a subtle display of Rex Ryan’s contagious confidence.
With an even more extensive résumé, now featuring a second-consecutive trip to the Pro Bowl, a postseason charge to the AFC Championship game, and a league-leading rushing attack — aided by the grunt work of the offensive line he commands — the 26-year-old center from Ohio is exactly as I remembered him, only with more accolades.
Maintaining and building upon greatness looks to be the goal in 2010, and although Mangold won’t be the first to boast, he knows what he wants and he believes this team can get it done.
Angel Navedo: We met last year at UbiSoft’s holiday preview event. Did you get a chance to pick up and play Assassin’s Creed II?
Nick Mangold: (nods) [I've] been playing it, but it’s been slow going. I got it middle of the season, [but] I didn’t really play too much. … Luckily, playoffs got in the way. I’m happy with that outcome. But it’s a good game, definitely.
AN: Here we are with UbiSoft again. Is there some type of connection with them?
Mangold: They’re good people. They’ve got some good games. It’s nice to have a good company and a good product, so you try to latch on to those type of things.
AN: And Just Dance – it looks like a pretty fun game.
Mangold: It is. It’s a good time. I got a little sister who’s 10 and she loves the Wii. I got her a Wii one year for Christmas and every time a game comes out, she always beats me at something. So if I get a chance to get a leg up on her, you know I’ll take it.
AN: So you’ve now got two Pro Bowls to your credit. What was it like the second time around?
Mangold: It was great! To have that honor the second year in a row, I was very appreciative of the guys who voted for me.
It’s something [when] you sit there and you look in that locker room before you go out, and you see the people you’re sharing it with, you know? It’s a very humbling experience.
AN: Last year when we spoke, you told me going against [nose tackle] Kris Jenkins was “horrible.” Unfortunately, he went down for the season. From your experience going against that defense, what changed after he was gone?
Mangold: I think it was our guys stepping up. They did a great job of filling in the void when Kris left. I think people saw the opportunity to step in and make plays.
AN: Nothing in the scheme changed?
Mangold: Yeah. I don’t think we really changed too much. But I don’t know much about the defense other than it confuses me greatly. Otherwise, I think they did just a really good job of filling in.
Tough to argue with the No. 1 defense.
AN: The Thomas Jones release happened. It’s been reported that he was the vocal leader in the locker room. Who steps up to that role with him gone?
Mangold: I don’t know. I think we’ll probably have a tryout basis as we go forward – see who’s a vocal guy in the locker room. I’m not much of a vocal guy. I don’t get into the “rah-rah,” but it’s good to have. I’m sure we’ll have someone step up and fill the hole.
AN: How did you take the news when you found out he wasn’t going to be part of the team?
Mangold: I was disappointed. He’s a great guy, a great player, and a great teammate. But you understand that it’s part of the business — everyone knows it going in. Hopefully guys learn it early so it saves heartache and pain down the road. But as long as you understand that it’s all part of the business, you get over it.
AN: Do you feel like Shonn Greene is ready pick up where Jones left off?
Mangold: I think so. He’s putting in work. He’s a heck of a running back. He’s starting to talk a little bit more, so you’re getting more humor out of him. It’ll be good to see as [organized team activities] come around [in May]. We’ll be able to get on the field and see how he handles the load.
AN: What were your thoughts when you found out LaDainian Tomlinson was joining the team?
Mangold: It’s always a great opportunity to add somebody of his caliber. I know we wouldn’t bring somebody in if they didn’t have some good stuff left in their tank. I haven’t been too worried about if he has it left in him.
I think the experience [Tomlinson] brings — what he has — to our running backs room is only going to help us. I think it’s going to be a good addition.
AN: One of the big things you touched on last year was how significant Coach Callahan was to helping the offensive line come along. Do his blocking schemes make it easier to feel like most backs can step in and lead the league in rushing again?
Mangold: We hope so. I think [a] good measure [for an] offensive line is how well your running backs do if your quarterback stays healthy. It’s a great thing if you’re able to put somebody else back there and still have the same success. It’s going to take some work, and this offseason will be a good time to get that work done. We’re excited.
AN: What’s your experience been like watching Mark Sanchez? At what time did you think it all came together for him?
Mangold: I think it came together [during the] middle of the year when we were down and we had that low spot. He had two ways to go: tank it and say it’ll get better next year, or it could get better now. I think when he realized he could get better now and did that, it was a big moment for him.
AN: There have been some vague reports about contract talks and your future with the Jets. What are you anticipating going forward?
Mangold: I don’t know how much the talks have been going on. Of course, I’d love to stay with the Jets, [and in] New York. I love where we’re at in [New] Jersey. I know when the time comes, the Jets will do the right thing. When that time comes. TBD.
AN: What would you like to see happen this upcoming season?
Mangold: I’d like to see the same running success. I’d like to build off what we had last season. You can be good and do it once, or you can be great and repeat it. I’m excited to get back out there and see if we can do it again.
Special thanks to Anthony Quintano at QuintanoMedia.com for the artwork.