Tylertown native has been serving the New Orleans Saints for four decades
Kevin Mangum has been on the Saints’ training staff since 1981
Metairie, La. (WLBT) - Kevin Mangum’s football career started back at Tylertown High School. As a freshman, Mangum was on the football team, but an injury changed the trajectory of his life.
“The coach brought me in and told me to get in one of the whirlpool baths and do a range of motion exercise for my ankle,” Mangum said. “I just asked a question, I said, ‘why are we doing this? What is this for?’ He pulled a book off his shelf and gave it to me; it was the principles of athletic training. He said, ‘I don’t know. Take this book home, read it, and find out.”
Decades later, Mangum is an assistant athletic trainer with the New Orleans Saints and is one of the longest tenured people with the organization.
Former Saints head athletic trainer Dean Kleinschmidt was instrumental in Mangum’s career starting.
“I contacted him early on, probably in the 10th grade. I said, ‘I want to come down and start shadowing you for a couple of days,’ and I’d come down for the next two or three years during the Thanksgiving holiday and I’d spend the day down here in New Orleans,” Mangum said. “Just watching him, watching what was going on, I think that’s when he actually took an interest in me. He kind of took me under his wing and guided me and directed me in the route that I knew I wanted to go, but just wasn’t sure how to go about it. He was invaluable to my career.”
From Tylertown, Mangum went to Southwest Mississippi Junior College, then Southern Miss. In 1980, he got invited to the team’s training camp.
“At the start of my senior year, I got a chance to become a summer assistant for the athletic training staff of the New Orleans Saints in Vero Beach, Florida for the summer. I went down and helped them, and really helped him at home games during that season also,” Mangum said.
After graduating, Mangum was hired for the 1981 season and was in the locker room with NFL Legends.
“It was a dream. I didn’t expect to be hired as quickly as I was coming out of college,” Mangum said. “Being able to work with a childhood hero like Archie Manning… I had followed Archie Manning all the way through his career at Ole Miss and then with the New Orleans Saints. To be in the same locker room and training room with him, it was just a great experience.”
During the season Mangum’s day-to-day duties focus on making sure the players are healthy – and keeping them that way.
“It’s a demanding job. It’s a time-consuming job,” he said. “It takes a lot of time to do the job that we want to do and do it well; just trying to return these injured players to the practice field and the game field as quickly as possible.”
In the last four-plus decades, Mangum’s job, and the responsibilities that come with it, have evolved.
“Things have been changing constantly since the 1980s until now. There have been so many advancements in sports medicine, do many new rehabilitation techniques, so many new different treatment modalities that we use now, and the whole mentality of the league has changed,” he said. “When I first got here, we had a staff of three athletic trainers. Now, we’ve got a staff of seven athletic trainers and two interns. The things that occur in the athletic training room, the advancements that have been made, and the things that we can do, it takes a lot more manpower than it used to take.”
Last year, Mangum was inducted to the Saints Hall of Fame alongside former wide receiver Devery Henderson and former running back Fred McAfee.
Mangum was also awarded the Joe Gemelli “Fleur de Lis” Award, which ‘honors an individual who has contributed endless time, love, and devotion for the betterment of the Saints.’
“It was a big deal to get the Joe Gemelli Award last year,” he said. “It was big being able to go in with a group like that; to go in with Devery Henderson and Fred McAfee: another great Mississippian.”
In four decades in New Orleans, Mangum has made many memories, but his two favorites are ones many Saints fans hold dearly.
“The Super Bowl; that victory doesn’t get any better than that. That was a major accomplishment for the team and was just so much fun to be a part of,” Mangum said. “Of course, the opening of the Superdome after Katrina: The Rebirth Game. That’s always been a big moment for us, because we were away for a whole season in San Antonio before we came back to New Orleans. Being able to return, seeing the Superdome reopen that way, with a victory over the Atlanta Falcons, it was really special.”
Mangum will start his 43rd season on the Saints sideline on Sunday, as the team hosts the Tennessee Titans in week one.
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