Before John, Kris and Jake Mangum, there was Big John, Sr.

Boo and Jake
Jake Mangum, right, wanted his photo made with the legendary Boo Ferriss after he won the C Spire Ferriss Trophy and made a thoughtful acceptance speech.

 

Rick Cleveland
Rick Cleveland

I could never run as fast as Jake Mangum, nor could I hit a curve ball, but I have one thing on Mississippi State’s C Spire Ferriss Trophy winner.

I knew his grandfather, “Big John” Mangum.

That’s who I wanted to tell Jake about as we chatted prior to his winning the trophy as Mississippi’s most outstanding college baseball player on the same day he was named the Southeastern Conference’s most outstanding freshman.

“Big John” Mangum, who died in 1994, was one of my first football heroes. He was a bull-strong defensive tackle at Southern Miss in the mid-1960s, a giant, friendly guy off the field and a terror on it.

He was from Magee in Simpson County and was recruited by Johnny Vaught to play football at Ole Miss in 1961. Soon after, he transferred closer to home at USM.

There, Mangum flourished. This was before widespread weightlifting, but Big John Mangum did not need weights. He was, as Mississippi high school coaches say, “country strong.” He dominated the scrimmage line is what he did. He was listed at 6-foot-1 and 270 pounds, much of it muscle. It usually took two guys to block him and often that didn’t work either.

He was the anchor of two Southern Miss defenses that led the nation in total defense. Mangum had plenty of help. Those USM defenses featured linebackers Doug Satcher and Ken Avery, defensive end Tom Roussel and nose guard Poochie Stringfellow. All but Poochie played in the NFL.

How good were they? At one point, after USM lost starting quarterback Vic Purvis, a future Hall of Famer, and his backup, USM still kept winning. During one stretch, they played three straight 3-0 games, beating Auburn and Richmond and losing at William & Mary.

I don’t even know if tackle statistics were kept back then, but Big John made a slew of them, and he always occupied blockers so that Satcher and Avery could take dead aim at quarterbacks and running backs.

After finishing at USM, Big John played in both the Blue-Gray games and the Senior Bowl and went on to play for the old Boston Patriots (along with Purvis) in the old American Football League.

Big John died in 1994. Little Jake was born in 1996.

“Obviously, I never knew my grandfather, but I have heard about him all my life,” Jake Mangum said. “I sure wish I had known him.”

I told Jake: He was a great player and a better guy. The only problem was when Big John slapped you on the back, he knocked you into next week. Did I say he was strong? Not even he knew how strong he was.

Two of Big John’s sons, John Jr. and Kris, went on to play in the NFL. John. Jr., a Mississippi high school football player of the year, at Magee, went on to play at Alabama and then for the Chicago Bears. He was a cornerback who would knock the slobber out of you. Kris also played at Magee and then at Ole Miss before going on to the Carolina Panthers, whom he helped to the Super Bowl.

When Jake Mangum accepted the C Spire Ferriss Trophy Monday, he first thanked his family. (You can watch his acceptance speech elsewhere on this website, and I strongly urge you to do just that.)

The Mangums are a proud family for good reason. And Big John Mangum was the patriarch of that remarkably successful and productive Mississippi sports family.

Jake Mangum is making them all proud.

10 thoughts on “Before John, Kris and Jake Mangum, there was Big John, Sr.”

  1. Thank you so much for writing this article. I wish Jake would have had the chance to meet his grandfather. Big John would have loved watching Jake play.

  2. This is such a wonderful article about my sons and grandson. Oh how Big John would have loved Jake, just gone too soon. We enjoyed being in Cleveland yesterday and appreciated the kind remarks about Jake.
    Glenda Mangum Brooks

  3. Great article Rick and such a great family. I think Big John HAS seen Jake play and enjoys what he sees!

  4. Big John would have been a terrific grandfather He would have loved all his grandchildren just as he did his children. Even though that is a football family, baseball would have been his favorite sport for now and he would have been at Jake’s games cheering for him.

  5. Such a great story…although not a player for Coach ‘Big John’ Mangum, I was a Magee cheerleader and band member in those days and saw him run those sidelines many times. My husband also was the Team Manager in the 1970 Little Dixie Days when he coached the Trojans. They are fine family, and he would be so proud. Just the other day my husband saw some old golf clubs while cleaning out the garage and he told me he bought those from Coach Mangum…he was a great guy!!

  6. Big John played for my grandfather, Thad “Pie” Vann at USM. He loved coaching, especially guys like Mr. Mangum. Our family has so enjoyed watching Jake at Jackson Prep and now at MSU.
    Mississippi is a special place and Jake has a wonderful heritage.

  7. I knew Big John, Sr. I made his senior portrait at Magee High School in 1961. John Mangum and Jon Maddox were the stars on one of the best football teams Magee High School has ever had

  8. I remember when Big John started dating Glenda and him coming to church with her at our home church in Simpson county. He would sure be proud of that grandson!
    Jake is fun to watch and I’m sure rooting for him and those dawgs!
    Congrats on all your honors Jake, you have earned them all!

  9. Great column, Rick. And congrats to Jake. Well deserved award, named for a great man: Coach Boo Ferriss

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