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A Sense of Urgency and High Expectations Mark IU Football Captain’s Last Season

What most people don’t realize about Indiana football is just how close we are. We’re as tight as you can get. Even when we’re away from the stadium, there are a lot of guys hanging out with each other. We’ll stay in the locker room after practice and after meetings, and you’ll see people messing around playing cards. And not just two or three guys, either. I’m talking twenty or thirty guys.

Everyone just loves being around each other, and that’s what people don’t see from the outside. You see what we do on Saturdays or maybe in a news article, but the biggest thing is that we are a family. And this being my last year, I’m trying to get everything out of it.

Mangieri celebrates with Rashard Fant (16) after Fant intercepted a pass during a preseason scrimmage in August. | Photo by Mike Dickbernd

Mangieri celebrates with Rashard Fant (16) after Fant intercepted a pass during a preseason scrimmage in August. | Photo by Mike Dickbernd

Your senior year, you know it’s your last go-round. You can’t really get it back, so there’s a different sense of urgency.

Freshman year, you’re really just learning everything. Sophomore year, you understand it and you’re working to earn a spot. By junior year, you’ve got a role and you’re trying to win games. You’re jelling with the guys and becoming your own player.

But the last year? Shoot. You know what to expect. You’ve been around long enough. It’s fun just going into your last year with all your brothers, the guys you’ve been going up against for four years. You’re having fun and joking around while staying competitive.

I look at all the other guys in my senior class, and really the whole team, just like my family away from my blood family. It started freshman year in the dorms. We were all in Ashton [Residence Center] together and having a great time during the summer. It’s funny getting to know people, messing around, and just doing stupid stuff with them. It makes practice much more entertaining. You know everybody personally and know what they’re doing on the weekends and who they’re hanging out with. You kind of joke about that kind of stuff. It keeps practice lively.

Coming into camp this year, we knew there were going to be experienced guys in the front seven. We have the attitude that we could be a top defense because guys are getting pretty comfortable with each other and holding one another accountable.

Things really changed in week three of camp. Coach Kevin Wilson got on us because of the way we were playing, and we went into a nine-on-nine passing drill and the front just started getting after it. We were disrupting the quarterback and getting in his face.

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Ever since then, it kind of flipped the switch for us, and we’ve been aggressive and able to disrupt the offense.

One of Coach Wilson’s favorite drills is the Oklahoma Drill, which he got from his time coaching there [at The University of Oklahoma]. One offensive player lines up against a defensive player between two blocking dummies put about two yards apart, while another guy tries to run the ball through the gap.

You’ve got to love it. You’re going to do it anyway, so you might as well enjoy it. It’s just man on man, bone on bone. Shoot, it’s fun. Especially for the younger guys you don’t really know anything about. You get to see them and what they’re made of.

Some of our young guys are really good. Jacob Robinson, he’s been doing a really good job. He’s going to continue to get better as he gets more comfortable with the defense. Guys in the secondary have obviously stepped up, so that’s exciting, too.

We’ve got really high expectations this year. We can’t really expect anything other than that. Everyone in the locker room has high expectations.

I think it means more to me being my last year. I know my time is ticking, and there’s a lot I want to do still. But it’s time for my last go-round, and it’s exciting. I’m ready for it.

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Nick Mangieri
A senior on the Indiana University football team, Nick Mangieri (#56) is a two-time Academic All-Big Ten selection, majoring in business management. The native of Peoria, Illinois, started every game last year at bandit — a roving linebacker position — finishing the season with 37 tackles and 2 sacks. Back at defensive end this year (where he started as a sophomore), Mangieri is listed at 6-5, 270 pounds, and says he’s ready to lead a restructured defense that has struggled with injuries, inexperience, and coaching changes in the past few years.
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