Let me just say right off the bat that Tony Mandarich is perhaps one of my favorite Colts players of all time. That is right folks; I rank him right up there with Manning, Harbaugh, The Edge and a slew of other potential/guaranteed hall of famers.
Many of you might not even remember that Mandarich played for the Colts from 1996-1998 so you might be wondering if I have completely lost my mind when I rank him as one of the favorite Colts. You also might not even know that he is widely considered one of the greatest draft busts ever. In fact, even to this day people who are draft busts on measured on a Tony Mandarich scale of "draft bustiness."
In 1989 Tony Mandarich was selected with the second overall pick in the draft which was unheard of, for a left tackle, at that time in the NFL. The Packers picked him ahead of guys named Barry Sanders, Derrick Thomas and Emmit Smith. Mandarich only lasted three years in Green Bay. He started off bad by referring to Green Bay as a, "village" in his first interview and by challenging Mike Tyson to a boxing fight. It sounds ludicrous, but it is 100% true and the Green Bay organization had to step in to prevent the fight which was scheduled to take place just prior to the first pre-season game. Despite all of that Mandarich had everything going for him in the beginning. He had a big multi-year contract and he had his face on the cover of SI with the title, "The Incredible Bulk!" Many thought that a player like Mandarich was going to change the game so that left tackles could finally take on rushers like Lawrence Taylor.
However, Mandarich struggled mightily in the NFL. In one Monday night game Reggie White just absolutely abused him up and down the field. After awhile he was benched and then was later cut in 1992. He faded away as easily the greatest mistake in Green Bay’s history.
Mandarich remained a ghost until 1996 when the Colts suddenly gave him a chance. If you recall that was when the Colts were trying to retool their O-line with young guys such as Tarik Glenn and Adam Meadows so we were desperate for some help. Still the pundits thought Mandarich wouldn’t make it, but not only did he make the team, but he started at guard for the Colts. Still can you imagine the shock of going from probably the best LT in college sports to playing guard for a rebuilding offensive line? Yet Mandarich accepted his role (are you listening Vince Young?) and went on to be a very good offensive guard for the Colts. He even got a chance to play his old team the Packers. The Colts went into that game 0-9 and the Packers were one of the best teams in the NFL that year. Yet Mandarich and the Colts, who were QB’ed by Paul Justin, went out there and won the game. It is one of my favorite Colts memories when Mandarich ran down the field with his helmet in his hand cheering after Cary Blanchard kicked the game winning field goal.
I mention all of this because "Inside the NFL" is running a very good two part interview with Mandarich in which he details his addition to drugs, steroids and alcohol while playing for the Packers. He discusses how they just took over his life and that he was so focused on, "getting high" that he couldn’t even bring himself to work out three times a week when he was with the Packers. He also, for the first time, admits to steroid use while playing for Michigan State and on how he evaded steroid detection during the NFL combine. Next week the interview will focus on his recovery from drugs and time as a Colt.
I don’t mean to sound corny guys, but this is an amazing story here and it is an excellent interview. So if you have Showtime check out "Inside the NFL" this week and next week for both parts of the interview. Mandarich also has an autobiography due out this spring, but he makes it perfectly clear in the interview that he will not name other steroid users because he does not wish to, "profit off other peoples personal mistakes."