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Kragthorpe: By publicizing his struggles, Tanner Mangum may accomplish more off the field than on it

Published June 29, 2017 3:20 pm

BYU football • He's maximizing his football opportunity in more ways than he could ever know
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2017, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.


Steve Young went into the Pro Football Hall of Fame with an anxiety disorder known only to those within his circle.

Tanner Mangum has gone public with his condition during his BYU football career, and continues to address the subject.

I never would criticize Young for waiting to disclose his issues until publishing an autobiography last year. That's a personal decision. Imagine the frenzy if the San Francisco 49ers' quarterback had spoken about therapy in his NFL days for his severe case of childhood separation anxiety.

That's also why Mangum deserves credit for his public stance, though. He's subjecting himself to some derision — Seven straight losses to Utah? That's depressing! — if his junior year of football is anything but perfect. Yet regardless of how he plays, he will help people overcome the stigma associated with mental health.

That's meaningful. By raising awareness of depression and anxiety and making clear that acknowledging such issues is OK, Mangum may accomplish more off the field than he or Young or any other BYU quarterback could do by throwing the football.

He could have let his social media posts in April stand as his only statement. Instead, he's advancing the cause, using last week's BYU football media day and national interviews as a forum for mental health. "It's really motivated me and inspired me to do more with it, to be able to use my platform for good," Mangum said. "To use the position that I'm in to stand up for a good cause and to reach more people and let people know that they're not alone."

My initial reaction to Mangum's disclosure was that he tricked me. His nature as a supposedly incurable optimist was the theme of my lengthy profile near the end of his freshman season in 2015. And he's actually depressed? Explain that incongruity.

Turns out, that's a question Mangum has asked himself.

"I'm very happy and positive and outgoing and always have been," he said. "At the same time, I've always had that introspective, more emotional side of me that not a lot of people see. ... When it comes to the social settings, I'm always very social and enthusiastic and never really had a hard time getting along with people."

Yet in other moments, away from groups and away from football, anxiety hits him. That happens "usually if I'm alone or in certain situations where I just kind of feel a little bit more isolated and the emotions kind of get going and my mind starts racing," he said.

Medication and counseling are part of the process of "being able to accept it and embrace it and understand it," Mangum said. "I don't have to be happy 100 percent of the time. I don't have to be smiling all day, every day. There are going to be times when I'm frustrated or sad or down, but we're all human. We all go through times like that. It's nothing to be ashamed of."

Roberto Osuna, a Toronto Blue Jays reliever, was unable to pitch last week because of anxiety. He described himself as "a little bit lost," saying the condition is unrelated to his baseball performance.

Athletes are not immune to mental health issues, which are common among college students. Mangum labels football his escape, saying his condition has not affected him on the field.

The way his college career has unfolded is unlike anybody else's experience in BYU's quarterbacking history, that's for sure. Replacing an injured Taysom Hill in 2015, he threw last-minute touchdown passes to overtake Nebraska and Boise State in his first two games. He remained the starter throughout that season.

And then Mangum's only start of 2016 came in the Poinsettia Bowl vs. Wyoming, after Hill played all year and was hurt in the regular-season finale. This is Mangum's first summer of knowing he's the starting quarterback, with all that accompanies the position on BYU's campus.

Mangum intends to maximize his opportunity. He's already doing so, in more ways than he could ever know.


Twitter: @tribkurt






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