In the Locker Room: Greg Mangan

The Review caught up with former standout football player and Oberlin’s current Quarterback Coach Greg Mangan, OC ’09, to discuss playing ball in Wasilla, Alaska, whipping Kenyon in the opener and coaching junior college players in San Francisco.

James Blankenship, Editor-in-Chief

You graduated in 2009 as Oberlin’s all-time leader in every significant passing category. When you first stepped onto campus as the Quarterback Coach this summer, did it feel sort of surreal?

It definitely was. A lot of the guys I knew were gone at that point. I think the seniors now were first-years when I was a senior, so there’s a little bit of carryover. But beyond that, it was kind of like a new blank slate but at the same place. It was surreal, and since I’ve been back it’s totally different not being a student.

You also spent some time as a member of the Kent Predators (now the Seattle Timberwolves) of the Indoor Football League. Which was more enjoyable, playing quarterback in college or in the IFL?

I would definitely say playing in college with your friends is the time of your life. It’s a little bit different when you’re playing professionally. There’s obviously a lot less stability, guys coming from all different backgrounds. So it was kind of cool to meet people that you wouldn’t necessarily meet at a place like Oberlin where everyone’s more in the same boat. We’re all there to get an education first and play ball [second]. But I think the camaraderie of playing in Oberlin and playing in college is what you miss at the next level.

The team was supposed to set up shop in Wasilla, Alaska, as the Arctic Predators. Had they approached you and said, “Hey, we’re going to sign you but you’ll have to play in Wasilla,” would you have done it?

I think so, just because it’s not so much about where it is in those leagues, it’s [about] who you know. So you’ve got to build those connections, that’s what it’s all about. That would’ve been interesting up in Alaska for sure, but these teams move all the time, so you just have to go where they want you.

You played behind former Nebraska Cornhuskers starting quarterback Zach Lee in high school. Talk a little bit about the game against Serra High when your team was getting blown out in the fourth quarter and you came into the game late to throw for three scores, rallying your team in the process. Seeing a guy go on to Nebraska after high school — when you had success in the same environment — did that make you feel resentful?

That’s a good question. I think as a competitor you always want to play. And I’d be worried about a guy if he didn’t think he was better than the guy above him. But at the same time I was really glad that I was in that situation because I learned what it’s like to compete, and to not look for the easy way out. There were definitely moments of frustration. I think that [experience] has really helped me now as a coach in seeing both sides of it. That backup role, to that player who’s not getting much time, to that starter who has it made, really. Getting to play every game, every snap. So I’ve been on both sides of it, and I’m really grateful for that opportunity. I think everyone’s favorite player is the backup quarterback because he’s one snap away and he hasn’t made any mistakes. 

As a redhead, what do you make of [Cincinnati Bengal’s rookie quarterback] Andy Dalton? Is he the savior for redheaded football players everywhere?

Well I’ve got another one for you, [former NFL quarterback] Jeff Garcia. He’s a redhead.

He’s bald, Greg.

He is bald, so maybe that doesn’t count. But yeah I think, aside from judging him on his hair color, I think he’s good. I think he’ll represent the redheads well. He can liberate us. [laughs].

Before returning to campus this summer you spent some time as an assistant coach with the City College of San Francisco, a perennial junior college powerhouse in football. What are some of the major differences between coaching at that level and coaching in Division III?

I think guys at the junior college level are using that as a stepping stone to an ultimate goal of playing at the Division I level or playing professionally, whereas at a smaller school that’s not really the emphasis. You’ve come to a place that you ultimately want to get a great education at and go do great things in the professional world and beyond that. And especially in liberal arts, football for our athletes is just a piece of it. I enjoy that, and obviously I love football, that’s what I’m here for, but that guys are more well-rounded here. The fun is sort of taken out of it at the JC level.

Back when you played for Oberlin, you went 3–0 as a starter against Kenyon. Given that success, how did it feel to kick their ass in the season opener this year as a coach? How did it feel to see the guys whom you’re constantly trying to teach concepts to go out there and execute?

That was probably the nicest part of that. It wasn’t necessarily the opponent, but that we were able to play a complete game on both sides of the ball [facing] a school that we compete against for recruits because they’re obviously a great academic institution just like Oberlin. So I was just glad to see that all the hard work was realized and that the guys got to enjoy all of the hard work they’ve put in thus far.

Has there been a moment yet during practice or a game — and you’re a pretty mild-mannered guy — where you’re like, “You know what? Someone just give me a damn helmet so I can go out there and take care of this right now.”

Yeah, but it might not go well. The arm’s not what it used to be. Maybe give me an off-season and we’ll reconvene on that.

[LaughsThat’s it, huh? Three months and you’d be ready to go?

There ya go, and I’d be ready.

What about in practice or in games? Has anyone made a throw into coverage, or taken a sack for holding the ball too long, where you just felt like hitting somebody with a clipboard because it was so ridiculous?

I mean it’s a fine line because you can relate to them when you played, and sometimes you think the coaches wouldn’t necessarily understand. You know, and every mistake isn’t created equal, especially when there’s all these moving parts on the field. But then as a coach that’s your job, to make sure that they do understand it and they do understand the mistakes. So, it’s a battle. A battle very deep in my soul [Laughs].