When the ball is kicked off in Tennessee Sunday, many people on the visiting sideline of LP Field in Nashville will participate in their first regular season game at a new position. A large portion of those first timers are expected to be critical impact players – including two young men appointed to spearhead the Jets offense.
Nick Mangold will snap the ball to his quarterback, Chad Pennington, in what will be his first official start of his NFL career. The Ohio State product was selected by the Jets with their second pick in the first round, 25 selections behind starting left tackle D'Brickashaw Ferguson. Mangold, a 6'4", 300-pound lineman with long blonde hair and scruff, may be new to the scene, but he is handling his first kickoff week with poise and enthusiasm.
"In college I always looked forward to the first game of the year," he said Friday. "So I'm definitely excited about this one."
Leading up to this game, Mangold has been relatively quiet, which is a very good sign for an offensive lineman. Since the beginning of training camp, Mangold found himself on the first string offensive line and hasn't looked back since.
"The expectations are for me to learn and get things down and to pay attention to guys like Brandon (Moore), Pete (Kendall) and Trey (Teague)," Mangold said. "I'm trying to do the best that I can there and hopefully that can translate onto the field."
For the majority of the past seven seasons, the Jets center position was dominated by one man, Kevin Mawae. Prior to this year's draft, Mawae was released by the Jets new management and picked up ironically, by the Jets first week foe, the Tennessee Titans. While that fact may reside in fans' minds this weekend, Mangold has shrugged off any pressure and has concentrated – with a little help – on enjoying himself and making the most of this once in a lifetime occurrence.
"There's a lot on my mind. My dad keeps me informed that it's my first one; he keeps chirping on that," Mangold said. "But I know there's a lot going on. I got a tape going at home, so hopefully if I do forget something, I can watch film and say, 'oh yeah I remember that.'"
In case he needs some last minute advice on Sunday, Mangold won't have to look too far. To his left has been the man both he and Ferguson leaned on all preseason long. Pete Kendall, now in his 11th season in the NFL, is sandwiched between two wide-eyed talented rookies who have picked the veteran's brain since day one. Kendall however, has a cloudy memory when it comes to recalling his opening day emotions.
"I don't remember, but knowing me, knowing how I feel now, I can guess that I was more anxious than excited," Kendall said of his first professional game. "Some people are going to feel more anxious or nervous and some people are going to feel more excited. However you are is how you deal with it."
Thinking back to that first game shouldn't come all too easy for the 33-year old guard, seeing how it has been a total of 147 games since his inception. Kendall made his rookie debut out of Boston College in 1996 as a guard for the Seattle Seahawks. As irony would have it, his first game was played alongside a familiar name.
"I was about five days off of surgery," Kendall added. "Ironically enough, playing with Kevin (Mawae), in our last preseason game, my thumb got caught between his helmet and Dana Stubblefield's chest plate, so I had a fractured thumb going into the game."
The fracture didn't hold the then 23-year old guard back one bit. In fact, playing with the broken finger actually proved to be a pivotal factor in the game.
"There is so much water under the bridge from then to now," he added. "But one thing that I do remember from that game is that there was a holding penalty called on me on a play that resulted in a touchdown. I went over to the referee and showed him my casted hand and told him it was impossible for me to hold and they actually overturned the call."
Needless to say, Kendall's first experience in the bigs was certainly one to remember. Hopefully for Mangold, Sunday will mark a memorable moment to ignite a long and successful career of his own.
Notes: Mangini didn't hold back his emotions about his first game as head coach. "I am excited about it. There has been so much work, time and effort to get to the point where we are at the start of the season," said Mangini. "It is obviously a great milestone."…
Friday Injury Report Jets Out: OL Trey Teague (ankle)
Questionable: *CB David Barrett (hip) & *WR Tim Dwight (thigh)
Probable: *LB Matt Chatham (foot) & *OL Pete Kendall (foot)
Titans Out: TE Erron Kinney (knee) & DE Antawn Odom (knee)
Questionable: *T Jacob Bell (back), *WR David Givens (hamstring), *G Benji Olson (hamstring) *S Lamont Thompson (ankle) & *RB LenDale White (ankle)