You may have been asking yourself this question: who’s name will be called at tight end for the Oregon Ducks this season? Last season the Ducks had several weapons at this essential position that started with Colt Lyerla, followed by Johnny Mundt, and ultimately finishing with Pharaoh Brown.
At the end of the day – or in this case, season – Johnny walked onto the practice football field this spring determined to succeed and with one goal on his mind: “I want the job.” Unfortunately he is not alone. The sophomore Mundt tells us his story and gives us a glimpse of how he can earn the title of starter.
The Civil War – an anything but civil historical battle between the Oregon Ducks and the Beavers of Oregon State University – was what put the Ducks on Johnny’s radar when looking at the next level of football.
“I remember when I was in seventh grade, I didn’t really know much about Oregon or Oregon State, and I just watched the Civil War. It was just so brutal; this is a real college football rivalry, and someday I want to be apart of this,” says Mundt.
Once an outside linebacker and tight end at Central Catholic High School in Modesto, CA, Johnny was recruited by the Ducks as tight end for the ’13-’14 season. The combination of a linebacker’s mindset and the nature of a tight end are a deadly recipe for anyone lined up on the other side. Mundt says, “I definitely miss [playing linebacker]. I love playing offense and I love playing at tight end. But on defense you just have that mentality to just see ball, get ball. It’s instinctive football. You recognize schemes and what the offense is going to do.”
I’m sure we all remember hearing the shocking news regarding the release of Colt Lyerla. Someone had to step up and into his shoes, someone had to answer the call that night, and that someone was Johnny Mundt.
He explains the nerves and excitement he experienced before and during his breakout game vs. Tennessee. ”I was like ‘you better know what your assignments are.’ There are eleven guys and everyone has to be working together in the same thing. So I was just studying my playbook all night. I was nervous, to say the least.”
I’m sure it was, especially when a nationally-rated Duck team was ready to rely – and heavily — on such a young freshman. But that just demonstrates the trust and determination Coach Helfrich had in Johnny. Mundt continues, “But once I got out there, I realized I was just playing football. It’s all it is. You’ve practiced enough and I just went out there and did what I [could].” In that Tennessee game, Mundt recorded 121 yards and two touchdowns – and put his name on the map of major college football.
At this level of competition, you never know whose number will be called on a weekly basis. It all depends on individual and competition performances.
“We’re all close, all good friends. We know when helmets are on, you got to compete. We are all pushing each other to get better. As a group, we are really getting better every day,” Mundt says about his relationship with the other tight ends.
So what then separates his game from the others? How can he be named the starter? He responded, “I just try to keep my motor going at all times. You know, go 100%, and can’t take any plays off. Just full speed.” Seems a lot like the Ducks’ motto to me: harder, faster, stronger.
Oregon Ducks’ football historically has had great success at the tight end position. Just look at Ed Dickson and David Paulson, both of whom are now playing in the NFL. Both made names for themselves here at Oregon, and that is exactly what Mundt is determined to do.
“We watch a lot of film on Ed Dickson and David Paulson, and I just kind of model myself after them because they went through Oregon and had great success. I’d like to do what they did.” In order to accomplish his goal, Mundt needs to be constantly reminding fellow players, coaches, and fans of his name, just as others before him had.
The battle at tight end continues every week. If you ask Mundt what game he is most looking forward to this upcoming season, he replies:
“The first game. To be back at Autzen, with the whole crowd, is something you can’t even explain.
“It’s an amazing thing to be a part of. I just can’t wait to be out there again.”
We hope for the same, Johnny.
Main photo by Craig Strobeck