Sportsnaut exclusive: Eric Mangini talks NFL career start with Cleveland Browns

By Matt Fitzgerald

Former Cleveland Browns and New York Jets head coach Eric Mangini has enjoyed a long career in and around the NFL, and now serves as a Fox Sports analyst.

Mangini joined Rich Salgado on Big Daddy & Friends to tell Sportsnaut about his humble beginnings in Cleveland — long before he got the Browns’ head coaching gig — as a ball boy straight out of college.

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Eric Mangini discusses odyssey of chasing after NFL dream

Long before he became a household name as an NFL head coach, Mangini caused some distress in his own household when he graduated from Wesleyan University in Connecticut and then went to Cleveland — to become a 23-year-old ball boy for the Browns.

“I remember telling my mom […] and she’s like, ‘You have $25,000 in student loans, you just graduated from Wesleyan and you’re going to pick up laundry as a ball boy?'” Mangini said.

Mangini obviously had a grander vision in mind for what he’d eventually do. After working as a ball boy during organized team activities that year, Mangini couldn’t afford to fly home, and instead volunteered to work in the Browns’ PR department prior to training camp.

That wound up being a pivotal move, because once the summer ended, the team’s PR head offered to bring Mangini on for the whole season. He accepted. Acquitting himself well in his PR job, Mangini started doing research projects for then-Cleveland head coach Bill Belichick. That led to Mangini’s first gig as a coach’s assistant.

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Unfortunately, it was announced not long thereafter that the Browns franchise would be moving and that Belichick was fired.

Mangini wound up staying on amid the franchise’s transition to becoming the Baltimore Ravens and served as an offensive assistant for the 1996 season before reuniting with Belichick on Bill Parcells’ staff with the Jets in 1997.

From there, Belichick brought Mangini with him to the New England Patriots as defensive backs coach. Once Mangini worked his way to defensive coordinator in 2005, that set the stage for his head coaching shot in New York for three seasons and then in Cleveland.

From humble beginnings to rising the ranks and reaching the highest levels of leadership in pro football, Mangini proved that just getting his foot in the door was enough to make the most out of a seemingly trivial post-college job prospect.

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