After declaring retirement last week, former Jets center Nick Mangold made it official Tuesday. He signed a one-day contract with the Green & White and fought back emotions during a news conference that began with a salute from CEO Christopher Johnson.
"We've had some great Jets since I got here in 2000 and Nick's accomplishments stack up with the best of them," Johnson said before Mangold put pen to paper. "He earned seven Pro Bowl selections in an eight-year span, the second most by any player in Jets history. His time here made us a better organization. He was an outstanding leader who showed our young players — with his words and his actions — what it means to be a professional. He will be missed on the field, but as he said in his retirement announcement, he will be a New York Jet forever."
After shaking Johnson's hand, a visibly moved Mangold officially signed his third contract with the Jets and addressed an audience that included former teammates D'Brickashaw Ferguson, Willie Colon, Brandon Moore and Ryan Fitzpatrick in addition to head coach Todd Bowles and general manager Mike Maccagnan. With his precious daughter, Eloise, in his arms, Mangold described how he instantly grew fond of the tri-state region soon after being selected No. 29 overall in the 2006 NFL Draft.
Best Images of No. 74's Retirement Day at 1 Jets Drive
"My wife and I moved to Westbury (Long Island) right next to the train station, so we'd go to the city and I absolutely fell in love with it," he said. "To be able to stay here, play in this city, and be a part of it for 11 years has been one of the greatest things I could've ever asked for."
Durable and dependable, Mangold started all 171 games he appeared in for the Green & White from 2006-16. He received seven Pro Bowl invitations and was named All-Pro following the 2009 and '10 seasons. He helped the Jets to three playoff appearances and anchored six Top-10 rushing offenses along the way.
"I think I'm most proud of that I did it the way I wanted to do it," he said. "I learned from a lot of great vets when I first came in of how to do it and I was able to continue that and hopefully pass that on: how to go about your craft, how to go about your business and be the best player you can be."
Cornerback Darrelle Revis, who shared the same locker room with Mangold from 2007-12 and 2015-16, said the 6'4", 307-pounder was the consummate professional.
"I'm glad I've had the opportunity to play eight years alongside one of the toughest offensive lineman in Jets history," Revis said. "Never once have I seen Nick complain about injuries. Every day he made it his obligation to bring such toughness and grit to set the tone in the running game as well being the anchor on the offensive line. It was truly amazing to watch him work."
Mangold will be forever linked with Ferguson. After they became the first offensive line pair to be selected by the same team in the first round since 1975, they were mainstays together up front for New York's AFC representative from 2006-15. After Ferguson retired, Mangold was limited to eight games in his final playing season.
"I know my head was spinning, I was always trying to figure out what was going on. I thought Nick did a great job, even at an early age, of understanding if he's going to be the center and run the offensive line, then he needs to learn it in a way where he can give it back to the guys," Ferguson said. "He really took time to learn the different formations. I saw him with his pad. When he was making calls and seeing things, he had a bigger, broader perspective than the center goes here and the guard goes here. I was thinking that, but he was thinking about safety rotations and changing the play. He was beginning that very early on."
Always a step ahead, the 34-year-old Mangold once again handled the big moment flawlessly on this spring morning. Instead of a classic matchup with Patriots NT Nick Wilfork, he said goodbye in vintage style. With his trademark beard and flowing gold locks, Mangold wore a sports jacket with his hat backwards. After he was released following an injury-shortened 2016 season, Mangold initially talked of playing again. But he sat out the 2017 campaign and closed his final chapter on April 24th.
"I miss the locker room and the guys," he said. "But as far as football, I did what I could do and I was done."