PROVO — It’s a siren call Tanner Mangum will answer until it calls no more.
The former Elite 11 quarterback and BYU senior has looked layers of disappointment and frustration in the eye this past year and he’s not backing down.
Football has been a major part of who he is. He’s tasted it, and still wants to take the deep sip, do it all again.
Mangum suffered a ruptured Achilles tendon in the fourth quarter last Nov. 4, during BYU’s game at Fresno State. It was one in a series of events that rocked the Cougars' program last fall.
But today, well, it’s another day. Mangum’s 1,000-watt smile is as bright as ever, his belief in his journey as strong as ever.
“It's been tough, wanting to progress faster and not wanting to deal with injuries at all, but in the end, it is a learning process,” said Mangum. “It creates a learning situation and helps me appreciate things I didn’t appreciate before and helped me change my mindset. It has been a trial of patience and faith, but I think I’m seeing a lot of progress.”
Away from the bright lights and noise of the stadium crowd, Mangum’s comeback work is undertaken.
What has carried him through?
“I think what has kept me going is my friends and family. Seeing my friends on the team every day, working out with them, going to the training room and doing physical therapy with them reminds me I am not alone, that we are in this together. We are all banged up in our own ways but keeping together helps each of us heal and get better.
“Also the fact that it is my senior season and my last year, a place I love so much, I want to go out as strong as possible. I want to get back on the field and finish this thing right and so it’s kind of been a motivating factor for me.
"If I’m feeling down or frustrated or tired or doubt, I just think about all the work I’ve put in and all the work I still need to put in to have a successful senior season the way that I want to for my friends and fans, to go out as strong as I can.”
So, what can he do? How close is he to playing football again?
Mangum says progress is on target.
“Thankfully modern medicine has made progress, and an Achilles tendon injury doesn’t take quite as long to heal as it used to. ... Dr. (Robert) Faux and the training staff here have done a great job of helping me progress.”
With the help of special equipment, Mangum is actually jogging.
“I’ve started to jog in an anti-gravity treadmill, so (using) a certain percentage of my body weight. I’m only three months out of surgery so to do that has been great. As far as specific comeback dates, I’m not sure. You have to play it day by day and week by week, but I’m definitely planning on doing what I can during spring ball.
“I won’t be playing, but I will be out there throwing and going through some light drops and then, of course, I’ll be out there to learn the offense and get the mental part of it down. I think what I’m doing now, I definitely will be able to do during spring ball and then I plan on being back during the summertime and get ready for the fall.”
Mangum has seen the trial before to remind him. He had a front-row seat as a witness to Taysom Hill, a legendary injury recovery artist.
“Totally," said Mangum. “And he did it three times. It’s a testament to his strength and attitude to fight through this year after year.”
He also has an example in former Cougar John Beck in how to deal with breaking in new coordinators. Beck had Gary Crowton, Robert Anae and Brandon Doman during his BYU career.
Mangum will have worked under Anae, Ty Detmer and now Jeff Grimes, and basically an entirely new offensive staff when spring drills begin in a few weeks.
“Coach Grimes has a great presence about him,” said Mangum. “He demands a lot of respect, he demands a lot of attention to detail, but he does it with a lot of love.
“You can tell that he’s excited to be here and excited to coach us and it’s motivating to us to know the coaches are aware of the lack of success we had this past season and they are just as hungry as we are to right the ship and just as motivated as we are to get things going.
"We are all aware that we need to step up and make some changes in order to find that new success we are looking for. We know we can’t do it the same way. We are excited for spring ball and to get on to installing the new offense. I think with new coaches comes a new sense of energy, a new sense of enthusiasm.”
Mangum remains an admirer of Detmer, the former Heisman Trophy winner whose coaching career at BYU was a brief layover.
“It’s a hard part of the business,” said Mangum. “Sometimes things don’t work out the way we think they will. This is tough because I love Ty as a person and loved playing for him and getting to know him and spending time with him every day, but it is a business and you have to learn to accept it and keep plugging away.
"I keep in contact with him and I’ll always remember the times we spent together and the ability to get to know him along the way and the things I learned from him. I wish nothing but the best for him and his family in all they do.”
So, in the dead of winter, when games are won and lost, how is Mangum doing?
He’s geared up. His head is too. His dreams are still alive and he sees no reason to doubt.