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Mike Maccagnan traveled all over before landing first GM job with Jets

Houston Texans director of college scouting Mike Maccagnan

Houston Texans director of college scouting Mike Maccagnan looks on during an NFL football rookie camp at the Methodist Training Center on Saturday May 17, 2014 in Houston, Texas. Credit: AP / Aaron M. Sprecher

When Mike Maccagnan steps to the podium and is introduced as the new Jets general manager this week, a journey that began about 50 miles from the team's practice facility in Florham Park, New Jersey, will be complete.

Fifty miles might not seem like that much. So let's add a few thousand more for the 47-year-old Hightstown, New Jersey, native's other stops on the way to his first general manager job.

Washington, London, Ottawa, Saskatchewan, Washington again and finally Houston, where Maccagnan spent the last 15 years before replacing John Idzik as Jets general manager last week.

According to those who know him, Maccagnan will not bring bluster, bravado or big talk to that Jets podium. (Rex Ryan took all of those with him to Buffalo anyway.)

What he will bring is the experience of a quarter-century of scouting since landing his first NFL job as an intern with Washington after a standout football and lacrosse career at Division III Trinity College in Connecticut.

Maccagnan graduated in 1990 with a degree in economics. But he didn't turn toward the financial side of being a football executive, as did Idzik, his predecessor.

After college, Maccagnan took an internship with Washington and never looked back, according to those who knew him as a young man.

"I always thought that someday he would be a general manager," said John Mackay, Maccagnan's football coach at the Peddie School in Hightstown. "I can't say I'm surprised. I thought that someday he would be a general manager because I think that's what his goal was all along.

"He really loved being around the game. I remember when he was a midwestern scout with the Redskins and he would call me up on the weekend: 'Hey, Coach, you're never going to believe where I am. I'm at Michigan Stadium watching the Notre Dame game' or whatever. All these fabulous things he was getting to do that he really liked."

That phone call would have been during Maccagnan's second stint with Washington, from 1994-2000, when he was a college and then pro scout.

Before that, Maccagnan really earned some frequent-flier miles as he moved steadily up the executive ladder.

There was his first paid job -- as a league scout in the American offices of the now-defunct World League of American Football.

There was his first job running things -- as director of player personnel for the London Monarchs, who won the World League title in Maccagnan's only season there (1991).

There were director of scouting jobs in the CFL for the Ottawa Rough Riders and then the Saskatchewan Roughriders (those crazy Canadian nicknames).

Maccagnan returned to the U.S. in 1994 as a scout for Washington before joining the expansion Houston Texans as coordinator of college scouting in 2000. Both times he was hired by Charley Casserly, who not coincidentally was one of the consultants for Jets owner Woody Johnson during the team's general manager search.

"Quite a journey from Hightstown, New Jersey," said Mike Darr, Maccagnan's lacrosse coach at Trinity. "It's been awesome as far as those of us who knew Mike and coached him."

Both Mackay and Darr remember Maccagnan as a quiet leader, solid citizen and fierce competitor. He was a nose tackle and linebacker in football and a defenseman in lacrosse.

"He was one of those real good two-sport athletes," said Darr, who coached Trinity lacrosse from 1979-2001. "The athletic director -- his sons all played for me and I talked to one of his sons who was an attackman and he said he really didn't like to go one-on-one with him. He said Mike was just a very intense, physical player. He showed that on the field. Very intense, physical, very coachable.

"Off the field, he was a great kid. He didn't carry any kind of chip on his shoulder. He worked. He worked at this position and he played hard and I think in that regard you can see how he's progressed in the professional level here in the NFL. It's pretty amazing and quite a tribute to him that he's gotten to this point. I'm not surprised that whatever area he chose he would be successful at. He had that air about him that whatever he was going to do, he was going to do it well."

Mackay said Maccagnan was "kind of introverted" during his high school days. So he may not light up the news conference room . . . but if he builds a winner with the Jets, that won't matter a bit.

"He loves football -- almost to the point of being kind of nerdy about it," Mackay said. "Particularly when he was younger, he was one of those kids who collected baseball cards, knew all the stats of all the pro players. He obviously followed football. I think if there was such a thing as fantasy football back then, he would have been an expert at it. He was into that kind of thing. I guess this is sort of a dream come true for a kid. This is the kind of thing he enjoyed doing as a young kid and now he's doing it and making a lot of money doing it."

In a statement after he was hired, Maccagnan said: "In my line of work, having the chance to serve as a general manager is what you work towards your entire career."

It helped that Maccagnan obviously made a good first impression on Casserly. Then he made one on Ron Wolf, the former Green Bay Packers general manager who also consulted on the Jets' GM search. And Johnson had to be impressed, too, to sign off on the hiring of another rookie general manager after Idzik's failures.

To Jets fans, Maccagnan is another unknown. His first chance to make a good impression will come when he steps to that podium as the latest man to try to bring a Super Bowl trophy to a long-suffering fan base.

Understandably, there are skeptics.

"I was listening to Boston talk radio and they were bashing Mike," said Mackay, now the athletic director at St. George's School in Middletown, Rhode Island. "They didn't really know who he is, but they were bashing him for being an unknown. But what a great opportunity for him. If he has any success there, boy, it's going to be wonderful."

Said Darr: "I think he's going to do a good job. I think he'll be just what the doctor ordered. At least I hope, anyway."

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