University of New Orleans alumnus Kevin Mangum has spent more than four decades on the sidelines for the New Orleans Saints as an athletic trainer, keeping an eye on the health and well-being of the players—and getting to know fan favorites, including Archie Manning and Deuce McAllister.
Mangum hails from Tylertown, Mississippi and grew up watching Manning play football, first at Ole Miss and then later as the Saints quarterback.
“Then all of a sudden being in the same facility with him,” was an extraordinary experience, said Mangum, who started working for the Saints in 1981. “I’ve just had great friendships with so many former players … I still keep in touch with a lot of them. Deuce McAllister is a great friend.”
Mangum, who earned a master’s degree in physical education from UNO, is in his 42nd season as an athletic trainer for the Saints. It’s a career that has given him a view to many storied victories—including a Super Bowl win and the epic “rebirth” game in the Louisiana Superdome following Hurricane Katrina.
“It’s been a very rewarding career for me. There’ve been some great games,” Mangum said. “Of course, the Super Bowl victory, there’s no better feeling than that. It was a huge game for us.”
“The return to the Superdome after Hurricane Katrina when we beat Atlanta in the rebirth game, that’s something you never forget!”
Mangum is among the club's longest tenured employees and has worked for 10 coaches since arriving fresh out of college. His contributions have helped the Saints athletic training staff earn several awards, including the 2007 Southeastern Athletic Trainers' Association (SEATA) Professional Athletic Trainers Award, the Fain Cain Memorial Award in 2006 and the NFL Athletic Training Staff of the Year in 1986 and 2006.
After his third year with the Saints, Mangum began taking night classes at UNO during the offseason.
“I knew that they had a strong program at UNO, the quality of education was good,” Mangum said “It was preparing me for the future. At the time I didn’t know if I wanted to give college athletic training a try … so having that master’s degree was important.”
Mangum completed his degree in 1988 and has two sons who are also UNO graduates.
“So, we definitely have a connection to the university,” he said.
This year Mangum was honored by the club to receive the Joe Gemelli “Fleur de Lis” award for his contributions to the Saints organization. Mangum, along with running back and special teams player Fred McAfee and wide receiver Devery Henderson, will be honored Oct. 28-30 in conjunction with the home game against the Las Vegas Raiders.
“It’s just great to be recognized for an award as prestigious as that,” Mangum said. “It’s nice to be recognized and felt like you’ve made some contributions to the success of this team, whether it’s getting a player back on the field or whatever.”
Ironically, a sprained ankle his freshman year of high school sidelined Mangum and sparked an interest that blossomed into a career.
“I played defensive back. I was an OK athlete,” Mangum said laughing. “I wasn’t great, but I held my own.”
While being treated for the ankle sprain, Mangum began questioning the trainer about his treatment. He asked questions about the whirlpool and the warm water motion exercises he was told to do.
“I said, ‘What am I doing this for? What does this do?’ He reached up on his shelf and pulled down a book, Modern Principles of Athletic Training,” Mangum said. “He said, ‘Read the book and find out.’”
Mangum started reading and researching athletic injuries and was hooked.
“I said, ‘You know, this is really interesting, and I think this is what I want to do.’ That’s when it all got started,” Mangum said. “Thank goodness he pulled that book off the shelf. It was a start of a good career for me.”
As part of the Saints sports medicine team, which also includes an orthopedic surgeon and internal medicine doctors, Mangum is involved with the treatment and rehabilitation of injured players as well as preventative treatments.
“Each individual player has individual needs that they need taken care of before they get to practice or a game. We’re all responsible for that,” Mangum said. “Our sports medicine staff collectively takes care of the players each day.”
During football season, Mangum said his job is a seven-day assignment. He typically arrives at the Saints Airline Drive training facility around 5:30 a.m. Players start arriving for treatment around 7 a.m. Mangum also travels with the team for away games.
“Starting at the end of July through January, it’s a seven-day a week job. We’re here Monday to Monday,” Mangum said.
The Saints training room is equipped with 15 treatment tables, a rehabilitation and a recovery area that includes whirlpool tubs, an underwater treadmill and a 7-foot deep “cold plunge” pool.
“We keep it about 55 degrees. The players like it after practice,” Mangum said. “It just helps with the recovery.”
Despite the demanding schedule, Mangum enjoys the challenges. The best part of the job is helping players return to the field, Mangum said.
“I think really the satisfaction of seeing a player return to the field after being away from the game and knowing that I played a part in his return to the game … is a big part of what you really enjoy.”