By Pete Nakos
OhioBobcats.com Feature Writer
ATHENS, Ohio – Troy Mangen sat in the Ohio weight room in Peden Stadium with his teammates surrounding him. One walked up and asked him a question about a class, while another had a question about a play.
All Troy could do was smile as he sat on the bench. This was what he had wanted, to be the captain of the Ohio football team and for his teammates to look at him as somebody they could rely on.
“It’s an honor,” Mangen said with a pause. “I’ve always tried to hold myself as a leader with this team, especially on the offensive side because I’ve been around for awhile. Just to know my teammates felt that way about me was humbling.”
Being a captain in the Mangen family isn’t new. His father, Mike, played football for the Bobcats from 1981-84 as he set the most assisted tackles (321) record, a record that still stands today.
Mike’s brother, Doug Mangen, followed his brother’s footsteps at Ohio. Playing from 1984-87, he was named a captain his senior year and finished his career with 188 solo tackles, fifth best in program history.
“I was able to play with him (Doug) for one season in Athens,” Mike said. “It was special. Really awesome for my parents and for us to kindle what we had in high. He played outside linebacker and I played middle linebacker.”
It was one of the reasons Troy decided to come to Ohio, to follow in his father’s footsteps. To play for a coaching legend under Frank Solich just added even more to the experience, Troy said.
For Troy, what his father and uncle achieved in the past as Ohio Bobcats is something he’ll forever cherish. But this season, he wants to separate himself by one thing they didn’t accomplish: to win a Mid-American Conference Championship.
“It was a cool touch,” Troy said about sharing the honor with his dad and uncle.
The tight end’s rise to captain wasn’t normal, as he was thrust into the mix as a true freshman in 2013, playing in all 13 games and making four starts. He hauled in four receptions for 12 yards and a touchdown.
In 2014, he started 10 games and recorded 19 receptions for 147 yards. But in his junior year, Mangen was forced to the sidelines for the entirety of the 2015 campaign due to injury. He couldn’t practice, he couldn’t help on the field during games.
As Troy puts it, it sucked. But instead of staying in a mindset of sulking over the injury, he put the energy to work by improving himself as a player. He viewed it as an opportunity to come back stronger.
“Spending a whole year in the weight room, you learn a lot about yourself,” Troy said. “A lot of time away from your team, but it teaches you a few lessons. I took the time to make myself a better player.”
He came back strong, too, his position coach Brian Haines said. The way Ohio likes to operate its offense, tight ends can see time as an additional blocker on the offensive line or be rolled out into the slot.
“I love Troy,” Haines said with a smile. “Being a physical football teacher, you can’t coach that. Troy is physical, but athleticism plays a huge role. For him, who weighs 250 pounds, he can get from point A to point B no problem.”
Troy doesn’t like to be the leader to get in someones face, he thinks it’s necessary, but it isn’t the role he wants to play.
Haines said that whenever they’re watching film, he’s always taking notes even though he knows what they’re talking about. When they hit the practice field, Haines says it’s like having an assistant coach out there with him because he’ll take the time to help the underclassmen understand plays or techniques.
His father always told Troy, his older brother and younger sister to go out and lead by example, and good things would happen. For Mike, he’s just along for the ride. All that Troy has accomplished is because of himself.
“I try to be the first one into lifting, it’s about doing the right things,” Troy said. “Being there for your teammates. You need someone who goes out there and does the right thing and I think we’ve got a lot of those guys this year.”