Gettin’ Saucy with Former New York Jet Nick Mangold

PHILADELPHIA, PA - SEPTEMBER 1: Nick Mangold #74 of the New York Jets looks on during the game against the Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field on September 1, 2016 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Eagles defeated the Jets 14-6. (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
PHILADELPHIA, PA - SEPTEMBER 1: Nick Mangold #74 of the New York Jets looks on during the game against the Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field on September 1, 2016 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Eagles defeated the Jets 14-6. (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images) /

Retired New York Jets center Nick Mangold has found a new labor of love, BBQ sauce.

After playing 11 seasons in the NFL as one of the league’s elite offensive linemen, Nick Mangold had earned the right to kick back and relax. But what fun is relaxing when you can follow your palate and create your own line of BBQ sauces?

“So it came to me about three years ago. I really enjoyed the process of making barbecued meats and then one day I was walking through the grocery store and I was like, I feel like these sauces are good. The one I was buying was good, but it never blew me away. I never thought it was the best barbecue sauce I’ve ever had in my life. And at that point, I was pretty proficient in the kitchen since I did most of the cooking during the offseason to help my wife, so I thought could make one better than what I was buying.”

Confidence is king and is definitely not in short supply among professional athletes, but I couldn’t help but wonder how Nick put his Seventy Four BBQ Sauce where his mouth was.

“I started a process. I researched online, found different people’s recipes, and started making them, to begin with, to see if I could recreate them. I piecemealed things together. I like this one better. I like this but a little heavier or I like that one but a little lighter. I went through a lot of different versions to see what I liked best and I came up with something.”

Tastes in BBQ and sauces are passionately territorial. So which regional camp did Nick’s creation align with most closely?

“People who haven’t tried my sauce yet ask all the time. Is it Carolina-style? Texas? Tennessee? Is it St. Louis? I always joke, it’s New Jersey-style because it’s so different but still in the barbecue world. It has a taste that I’d never had before and I really enjoyed it, so I started making it for myself. And it was one of those things where I’d have people over and they’d say they loved it, but you never know if they’re giving an honest answer or just being nice. I know my family thinks it’s really good. I don’t want to put anything out there with my name on it that I created that isn’t good. It was pretty cool because for 11 years in the NFL I was an entertainer. I didn’t create anything. This gave me the opportunity to create something. So we did blind taste-testing, with my partner taking it around to people and we got great feedback. We’re like, alright, let’s start this.”

With two sauces available now and two more on the way, I was curious to learn how Mangold honed in on each unique flavor.

“Each of the sauces correlates to my four kids. My firstborn son is the O.G., my original child, so the first sauce is named after him, O.G. BBQ Sauce. My second son is a carbon copy of his older brother, except he’s a firecracker, so the second sauce is O.G. Spicy BBQ Sauce. My first daughter Eloise is the sweet one and her nickname is Weezy, so we call her Sweet Weez. She gets the sweet sauce, the Honey BBQ. The fourth sauce will be an ode to my second daughter, who was born in the fall during apple season, so it’ll have Apple Cider and be a Carolina vinegar-style. Carolina-style sauce is also my wife’s favorite.”

Having worn number 74 during his playing days in the NFL, Nick’s company is naturally called Seventy Four BBQ. And with the same acute attention to detail that comes with learning a football playbook, Mangold didn’t just whip up a batch of sauce and start selling it. He and his partner spent eight or nine months focused on logo design, branding, manufacturing, even the product’s bottle design and composition.

If Nick Mangold had taken shortcuts on the field, his NY Jets quarterback could potentially wind up on their backside. Okay, bad example, as New York Jets QBs were often found prone in the backfield, through no fault of the seven-time Pro Bowler. But the same precision that he brought to his profession has clearly carried over to how he tackles growing a BBQ sauce company.

As impressive as Nick’s deliberate, thoughtful approach to creating Seventy Four BBQ is, one can’t help but giving an additional tip of the helmet to him for donating a percentage of proceeds to Answer the Call.

“It’s been fun starting the business, but it’s also neat that we have a great charity component to it. I’ve been with Answer the Call for six or seven years now. They do amazing work with families of first responders in New York City, firefighters, police, EMTs. They do a fantastic job. A portion of every bottle goes to them, so not only do you get to see my beautiful smiling face on each bottle, but Answer the Call also gets money for each one sold.”

Nick Mangold obviously isn’t letting any turf grow under his feet post-NFL playing days. While the self-described manny/cook continues to spread the Seventy Four BBQ gospel, his humorous approach to life can also be enjoyed everywhere from Chopped, where he was a judge on a recent episode, to his social media accounts. At the end of the day though, it’s hittin’ the sauce that remains his passion.

Where do your BBQ loyalties lie? Are you team Carolina? Texas? North Carolina? St. Louis? Or a recent convert to Nick Mangold’s New Jersey?