There are very few players who embodied Rex Ryan’s idea of ‘Play Like a Jet’ the way Nick Mangold not only got it but embraced. The New York Jets center was the type who played to the whistle and took each loss personally.

As a player and a man, he was something unique and special. There will likely never be another Mangold.

He played the entirety of his 11 years in the NFL with the Jets. A 2006 first round pick, Mangold instantly stood out as not just an exceptional offensive lineman but also a leader. He didn’t do it in a traditional way but he still led through a relentless work ethic and love of the game.

Three faces are etched on the Jets’ Mount Rushmore. Unfortunately, Mangold will not be joining Joe Namath, Curtis Martin and Darrelle Revis in stone.

He was maybe the most difficult omission from the Jets’ Mount Rushmore for two reasons. First, on the field, he was dominant. He is one of the best center’s of his generation, seven times a Pro Bowl selection who also was three times named All-Pro. He was a combination of athletic and strong, these two physical assets combined with a strong football acumen. Whether it was a rookie or a seasoned veteran behind him, Mangold’s cool and steady demeanor won him fans the league over. He was a tough and gutsy center.

USATSI_9622417_168388605_lowres

The other reason that it was difficult to leave off Mangold is personally. In 2008 when I first began covering the Jets, Mangold saw me in the locker room at the team’s practice facility. It was my first time in an NFL locker room. I didn’t know any of the reporters or even how the media availability worked. I was just sort of hanging back.

RECOMMENDED ARTICLES

All the media went over to one of the star player’s lockers. I didn’t. I was hoping to speak with a defensive player for a certain story. Instead, I was sort of frozen in place. Intimidated? You bet.

Mangold brushed by, stopped and looked at me straight in the eyes.

“Whoah, someone call the coroner’s office on this one,” Mangold said.

I didn’t blink. What’s he talking about? He smirked, shook his head and walked back to the showers, stopping on the way.

“New here?” Mangold leaned in and said. I nodded.

“I can tell. You’re bug-eyed man. You must know what’s coming,” Mangold said. “It’s OK, we make all the rookies stand up and sing so get ready. No rap though.”

Afterwards, I had to confirm with another player that Mangold was joking with me and new media members are not required to do a solo.

I was finally able to blink.

--> All artwork for this series is being done by Elliot Gerard. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram. His artwork can also be seen here at ElliotGerard.com <--