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CHARACTER KEY FOR MANGINI

By MARK CANNIZZARO

<B>SEARCH IS ON:</B>Jets coach Eric Mangini said being comfortable with a player's character and work ethic is just as important as his ability.
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April 27, 2007 -- Although the early morning light was shining into most of the offices at Weeb Ewbank Hall yesterday, Eric Mangini's corner office was rather dark and, as usual, the white projection screen on one wall was pulled down with some player data beaming on it.

The NFL Draft was two days away and Mangini was in his typical ultra-preparation mode, refusing to leave one detail without full inspection.

During an exclusive sit-down with The Post yesterday, Mangini didn't reveal exactly the player the Jets will select with the 25th overall pick in the first round tomorrow.

He did, however, make it unmistakably clear what kind of player the organization will draft.

"I don't want to know just about the player," Mangini said. "I want to know about the person. That transcends throughout the organization. Anyone that comes into this organization, I want them to be the right type of person."

The Mangini Jets are adamant about drafting character, not characters.

That automatically eliminates some players, no matter how talented or tantalizing a prospect they may be, from the Jets' draft board.

One of Mangini's building blocks to success is acquiring players who have smarts, desire, selflessness and common sense to go along with a swift 40 time, a high vertical jump or a flexible hip swivel.

Though the Jets search high and low for good character players, they also do not go only by what they hear. For example, simply believing what they've been told about a player's dodgy reputation.

"Eric has this great expression of saying, "The truth . . . let's find out the truth,' " Jets GM Mike Tannenbaum said.

"You want to make sure you get the guys who are intrinsically motivated who have all those core characteristics - smart, tough, hard working, competitive, selfless, football is important to them - because then you know they're going to take advantage of the program we provide.

"It's not just about what they do individually. It's about the people they affect around them. If you bring in good people, they're going to affect another satellite groups of people and set them in the right direction.

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