Flashback to last year, when Mangano watched most of Lincoln's
football games from the sideline rather than being on the field.
"My junior year, I knew Cody McCray was a senior and was going to
have the top spot, but I still worked hard in those doubles,"
Mangano said of his efforts in practice to crack the starting lineup
last year. "I didn't get it, but I thought myself to be the
third-best guard. I wanted to change that, so I did work pretty hard
during the offseason."
Mangano's work did not go unnoticed by Railer head coach Jared
"He's a kid that didn't play a lot last year as a junior and was
a little frustrated," Shaner said. "He worked very hard this summer
and earned himself a spot on both sides of the ball."
Not only did his work catch the eye of his coach, but Mangano
obviously made an impression on his teammates as well, as they chose
him as one of the captains of this year's team.
"Unexpectedly, I was elected as a captain," said Mangano, who is
the son of Dr. Mark and Roberta Mangano of Lincoln. "I was pretty
happy about that."
And while being a captain on the football team will no doubt be a
memory he will cherish, adding to that is the fact that Mangano is
playing for the first time alongside his brother, Joseph, who is
also a lineman for the Railers.
"It's great; I love it," said Jonathan, who is planning to study
psychology at Lincoln Christian University after high school. "But
playing next to my brother… Every time I walk off the field, I
think, ‘Oh man, I only have two more games playing next to my
brother.' Next year, when I come back and see him, I'll be like,
‘Man, I should be out there next to him.'
"It's so surreal; I'm getting goose bumps talking about it right
"I think he sees the big picture and maybe the gravity of that
situation," Shaner said. "Not everybody gets to have that
relationship with one of the people that you're most close with in
your life and gets to play football next to them, and he understands
how neat that is. He's made several comments this year, and I think
that's going to be something that he's going to look back on with
great memories for his entire life."
When thinking about memorable plays in a high school football
game or career, most people would probably think of scoring a
touchdown or intercepting a pass. Shaner said, however, that he
thought Mangano might hold onto a different memory when he recalls
his Railer football career.
"We have several plays where the guard and center are going to
double-team together," Shaner explained. "And we had several plays
where he and his brother were double-teaming and just driving guys
into the ground. We pointed it out in film and I know he's very
proud of that. It means a lot to him."
Another distinguishing aspect to Mangano's character is his
openness about his religious faith. Prior to the team's game against
Lanphier, it seemed to Mangano that the burden of Lincoln's winless
season was taking its toll on his teammates. The 6-foot-1 Railer
senior turned to his faith and posted an open letter to his
teammates in the locker room to help lift their spirits.
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"I was very confident going into that game, but I thought the
team was a little bit down and we needed some encouragement,"
Mangano explained. "I picked a verse from Corinthians -- I think it
was 9:26. It was just about run the race like Paul did: Run the
race; run it so you will win the prize and get the reward and not be
disqualified at the end. And I just thought that really preaches to
"I think that's very neat for a high school kid to be that
confident of himself and his faith," Shaner said. "That's not
something we talk about a whole lot at football, but he definitely
shows that, and the kids understand that and respect him for it."
Perhaps due in part to his own efforts and lifting of spirits,
Mangano said that although everyone wishes the team had more wins
this season, the team's record has not had an adverse effect on
"This has been the best practice year of my career, and I'm
really proud of that," he said. "We know that we have to get better
every day, and we go after it. Sometimes we get on the coach's
nerves for something or something goes wrong, and we pay the price,
but this is the best year of practice that our team has had."
Mangano and the other seniors will play their final Railer
football game Friday, when the team hosts Waterloo. There is no
doubt Mangano would love for the efforts in his final game alongside
his brother to result in a victory.
If that doesn't happen, however, Mangano leaves no doubt that he
has other goals he hopes to achieve through his participation in
athletics as well.
"I love Jesus Christ and I talk for the FCA (Fellowship of
Christian Athletes) all the time," he said. "That's one thing I want
to be pretty open about.
"If I can show these guys the love of Jesus Christ, that's the
best thing I can accomplish even if we don't win a single game this
[By LOYD KIRBY]