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

Posted on: May 24,2016

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.

18 responses to “Before John, Kris and Jake Mangum, there was Big John, Sr.”

  1. John mangum says:

    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. Glenda Mangum Brooks says:

    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. Donald Thurman says:

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

  4. Tommy Meador says:

    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. Betsye D says:

    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.

    • Beverly Barnes says:

      My late husband, Rex played for your grandfather, “Pie Van “(1966-1968) then he retired for Rex to finish his career with PE Underwood. He so respected and loved your grandfather, at USM! And Jake, is a special friend to my niece Sarah, at MSU! I did not realize the connection to Jake and Big John until I read Rick’s column! Made my day!
      Best Wishes!
      Beverly Barnes (USM 1967-70)

  7. Emma L Horrell says:

    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. Randy Pace says:

    Great article thanks. A special family all the way through!

  9. Peggy welch arender says:

    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!

  10. Billy Watkins says:

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

  11. Robert Landrum says:

    I grew up with Big John, his bother Jerry, John Cullen Maddox and a host of other “Big Boys from Magee High School. I spent much time hooked on coat racks in the hall ways at MHS. I harassed them as much as they harassed me, but I was 4 years younger than them and never won anything from them. They were great guys and taught us younger guys a lot about football. It was was and is an honor to say I played with them as a Trojan.

  12. Lydia Rigers says:

    Jake is one of my all time favorite MSU players. He’s a great player, a wonderful representative not only for Miss State, but for Mississippi as well. I’m so proud to claim him
    as a Bulldog! His best attribute is his humility and team spirit as evidenced by his willingness to make a y contribution to the team even though it might not be good
    for him personally!!!! Go Jake! Hail State!!!

  13. Clay Baldwin says:

    Some of my first memories of Magee football were Mr. John booming orders to the team. I had the privilege of watching John, Jr. and Kris play at Magee. I hope you are both well. I cheer for Jake in every game I’m able to catch. Ms. Glenda, I hope you are well. Such a great Magee family and proud to know you all. Happy Memorial Day, and congratulations Jake! Well deserved!

  14. Rene O'Cain Craft says:

    I had the honor of being related to this precious family on the Mangum side through my grandmother Anne Los Stubbs Stringer. I grew up knowing how awesome Big John was, as a Coach and person. I watched Kris and John, Jr rise to success, and now Jake. What a wonderful tribute to a great man and a terrific family.. Congrats

  15. Beverly Barnes says:

    Hello Rick!
    Great article on Jake and his family!!! Such a talented and fine young man! Hope all is well with you and your family!!
    Beverly Barnes (Mrs. Rex M.)
    Carrollton, Ms

  16. Bob Booth says:

    Great article !

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.


Enjoy this blog? Please spread the word :)