By Jared Rosenberg, Nick Kobel, Derick Abbey and Pat Meehan:
College athletes do not always go on to become professional players. That doesn’t mean their passion fades away after graduation. For Jason Mangone, Mark Sanchez and Nick Pontari coaching was the next logical step in fulfilling their dreams of success and satisfying that passion after initially playing for the Brockport Golden Eagles.
The head coach of The College at Brockport SUNY football team, Mangone originally played as a Golden Eagle himself. From a young age he loved football and always knew he wanted to help students the way his youth coach helped him.
Mangone explained why he became infatuated with the sport in the first place. “I think I was eight years old when I fell in love with football. It was my second year of little league football, and we won the championship,” he said. “Tom Broad was my coach and I was very close to his son, so we would watch film (replays) at his house. I guess his love of the game was instilled in me at a young age and I just spent a lot of time at their house.”
A longtime football player in high school and a Golden Eagle at Brockport, Mangone decided ultimately to turn to coaching the championship team he had once been a part of. “The reality was I always saw myself as being a football coach, and I guess physical education was the closest thing to prepare you for that track so I decided to make the switch.
“I was searching for something to do for the next 40 years of my life, so I had to just go with my passion. If there are no jobs I had to make it work somehow. So, in essence, I came to Brockport and took a gamble. I came here with the intention of maybe never playing again, but I was going to give it my best shot.”
Sanchez turned to coaching as the next logical step in his career path. After playing in high school and college, Sanchez went to coaching. He said: “I decided football had been such a life changer for me in the fact that it was the reason I was able to go to college and, it’s the sport I’ve loved since I was a child so why not stay around the game as long as I can?”
Sanchez is currently an assistant football coach for the Golden Eagles. “Looking back I had no idea I would ever be a coach here. When I first got here I wanted to get a degree and become a cop or a firefighter, but my time here at Brockport changed my whole perspective on what I want to ultimately do with my life,” Sanchez said.
“I’m just glad I got the opportunity that I have right now at my alma mater to try and keep the success we have going here.” Sanchez and Mangone have been pivotal in leading Brockport’s football team to nearly undefeated seasons for the past two years.
Finally, Pontari, the associate head baseball coach at Brockport joined the coaching staff in 2015 after graduating from the college with a degree in physical education. A former baseball player for the college himself Pontari recounted how he got into coaching: “I knew I wanted to play baseball without a doubt. That’s the main reason I came to Brockport. My main coach was a Brockport alumni, and, Brockport had the program I wanted so I knew for awhile that’s just what I wanted to do.”
In addition to being an active coach for the college’s baseball team, Pontari teaches coaching as a professor. “I had all the answers as a student and now as a teacher… there’s still a ton to learn. And, it’s the same as a coach, you’re constantly learning because you don’t just see the big picture.” Wrapping up, Pontari recounted his days as a player and if he would go back. “I think without a doubt, if I had the opportunity to compete, I would absolutely go back out there.”