He came from a small school in Northern California, the son of walnut ranchers and the oldest of three sons. Johnny Mundt grew up working on the farm, a story like Taylor Hart, who grew up working in his grandfather's lumber yard. He's dated the same girl for two and a half years.
In high school, he was a 3.8 student. He played tight end and linebacker. The Crusaders ran for 400 yards a game and rarely passed. When they did, opponents doubled teamed him. As a junior he caught 17 passes for 314 yards and 5 touchdowns.
Stiff competition: Johnny Mundt, a true freshman from a small high school in Northern California, was fifth-string tight end when fall camp started. On Saturday he started against the SEC Tennessee Volunteers, grabbing 5 passes for 121 yards and two touchdowns in his third game as a Duck (Gary Breedlove, Eugene Daily News photo).
During his senior year at Central Catholic, the Crusaders played a tough schedule and lost two games early. But they won 12 in a row to finish the season and won the CIF Division IV Championship. Three times Mundt caught two touchdown passes in a game. Three times he had three sacks. They threw to him more, 38 catches for 625 yards and 8 tds. At linebacker he broke through for 80 tackles and 15.5 sacks. He made first team All-Norcal and got picked for the Semper Fidelis All-American Game.
Billy Hylla is the Central Catholic Athletic Director and defensive coordinator. When Johnny Mundt committed to Oregon in the summer of 2012, A.J. Jacobson of rivals.com gave him a call. What kind of a kid is he? Jacobson asked.
"The special thing about him as that sometimes your hardest worker isn't always your best athlete. John is the exception to that. He is a phenomenal athlete plus he's one of our toughest kids. He is our hardest worker and he is a leader. He is the complete package that you look for in a football player."
"We are a small campus," Hylla said. " We have 411 kids and Johnny is what we want every kid to be like."
At clinics and combines that summer, Mundt got some attention. At the Oakland Nike Camp the 6-4, 232 kid from a small school ran 4.76 in the 40 and vertical jumped 33 inches. He earned a SPARQ rating of 114, 20th-best in the country, tops among tight ends. Scout named him a 4-star prospect. All the other services gave him three. He got some offers, California, Colorado, Duke, Fresno State, Nevada, Oregon State, and San Diego State.
Mundt signed his letter of intent to play at Oregon in February. Playing in that slow-paced, methodical offense, he was thrilled to be going to an up-tempo school that threw to the tight end. He told the local television station, News 10, "To finally see my name down on the paper and have it be official, it is a great experience that is finally coming together. I'm been dreaming about this day since I was a little kid to play college football. It couldn't be much better."
When he got to Oregon in June, he was the fifth-string tight end, behind an All-American candidate, Mackey Award Watch List nominee and returning starter, behind a couple of four-star recruits. He was probably going to redshirt, spend a year learning the system and getting acclimated to a new enviroment.
Mundt kept working. He made plays in fall camp, big catches, holding his own against the juniors and seniors in passing drills, winning a few battles blocking DeForest Buckner and Arik Armstead. Pharaoh Brown got injured. He kept getting more reps, passing Evan Baylis and Koa Ka'ai on the depth chart.
Third week of fall camp, the coaches call him into the office. He made the two-deep, and wouldn't have to redshirt. He was the number two tight end in his first fall on a college campus.
Game one against Nicholls, he played the second half and in two tight end sets. The Ducks got up big early and didn't throw him a pass. He was on the traveling squad for the Virginia game, same thing. some time on the field but no passes. Colt Lyerla, the Mackey Award nominee, had a rough game, dropping three balls in a frustrating and uncharacteristic performance. Mundt went up to him on the sidelines. "I gave him some space for a little bit," the freshman told Andrew Greif of the Oregonian, " but I told him,'you're the best tight end in the nation, go out and prove it.'"
After the third drop, Lyerla was fuming on the sidelines, swearing at himself. Head coach Mark Helfrich patted him on the helmet. The 6-5, 250-lb. junior, a projected NFL first-round draft pick. He'd broken two fingers; his mind wasn't right, missing easy plays like that.
Lyerla settled down and went back in. On the next series wide receiver Keanon Lowe caught a quick screen pass at the 11, and Colt threw a big block that paved the way for a touchdown.
Fourth quarter, the 2s take over, and Mundt is lined up on the left side against one of Virginia's big defensive ends. It's an inside handoff to Thomas Tyner, another of the six promising freshmen who's earned playing time in his first year. The Cavalier player, 6-5, 270, sheds Mundt but Johnny gets a piece of him, enough to keep him out of the play. Tyner scoots by for a 31-yard touchdown.
The team gets back to Oregon 2-0. Sunday is an off day, just lifting weights and treatment. During the week a half-dozen guys come down with a stomach virus. Colt Lyerla is one of them. He misses three days of practice.
On Friday, the coaches tell the true freshman he was starting against Tennessee.
Stories like these truly are inpsiring Dale. My father once said something that's probably true, that the best quarterback to ever play a football game probably never got the chance. Talented kids get stuck behind other talented kids every day, on every team, and there's only room on the field for eleven at a time.
I'm glad Mundt got the chance to play. When he caught the first pass, I knew exactly who it was and I got excited. For him. For Oregon. For a love of the game and the legion of faceless kids who only dream of becoming Johnny Mundt, if only for a day.
Don't think there will be animosity between Colt and Johnny. If the report was correct, Colt tweeted a positive message about Johnny's performance after the game. They can be a tremendous 1-2 punch.
Let's not be too quick to anoint Mundt the starter. Lyerla is a freakish athlete for his size that only comes around once a decade. It does concern me that Mundt was integrated into the offense often and almost seamlessly. Just a coincidence, or does he have a better grasp of the offense?
Dale you really nailed this story. You did your homework then put it down like nobody else. You're amazing and thanks for all that you do.
As a reminder, CL is still #1 and Johnnie has a bright future....should be a star.
Go Ducks WTD
Johnny Mundt was an absolute bruiser out there Saturday. That 50+ yard run where he used the old fashioned stiff arm on not one but two tacklers was classic. Mundt started #5 and moved up to #2. He has his goal set as #1 and he may be there already. Coach Helfrich has a new problem. Not Colt and what is he up to? but Colt and Johnny, who is #1? Marcus Mariota definitely knew how to find Johnny on Saturday. OK I am showing my bias but Colt could be gone soon and Johnny Mundt is going to be with us and be a star for a while.
I hope CL doesn't turn out to be a prima donna who can't fit into a team atmosphere. It's nice to see JM get a chance to show his skills. His name has come up several times from fall practice as someone to was showing promise and now we know why.Hopefully, CL comes back and gives us the best two tight ends in the conference.
@zduckfan He is a great story and it will be fun to follow his career. The kid seems so genuine and authentic, just incredibly steady and grounded. Helfrich said, "He's a rock." Every program needs a foundation of rock-solid guys, and the Ducks have had a bunch of them. Michael Clay comes to mind. Daryle Hawkins, Brian Jackson, Taylor Hart.
@Platypus1 I agree that the two Ducks will mesh seamlessly and complement each other in the offense. Lyerla's a tremendous talent, and Mundt can fill the role Lyerla had when David Paulson was the starter, or Paulson had when Ed Dickson was the starter.
Mundt is intelligent, and TE coach Tom Osborne praised him this week for his work ethic. He told Andrew Greif of the Oregonian, “He’s learned really fast,” he said. "Johnny’s an 18-year-old true freshman who hasn’t gone to class the first day, he hasn’t been to English 101 yet, he’s still just a young guy but he’s gotten better by the week.
“Johnny’s in position to play and probably play some more as the season goes on. Every game’s a bit different. Some games you can use two tight ends more than other games and sometimes you can’t, and it’s a lot of reasons behind that. But I think he’s going to be involved in a lot more as the season goes on.”
@hoboduck Clearly Colt is #1 on the depth chart but the youngster is pushing him hard right now. Colt has two weeks to recover from the dropped passes, the flu, the broken fingers etc.
@hoboduck Thank you hobo. I stood on the shoulders of some great reporting by the pros. And yeah, that's good reminder. Both of those guys have talent and will help the Ducks win this season. Think of the possibilities in two tight end sets, or even three as Pharoah Brown gets healthy. Imagine guarding three guys over 6-4 at the goal line, all of whom can jump and box out.
@SonomaDuck Mundt reminds fans of David Paulson, and with his work ethic and reliability he's likely to a favorite for a long time. Lyerla will get it turned around. He has a world of talent and a bright future in football.
@duckified Two broken fingers? First I've heard of that circumstance. When and how did that happen? If before or during the Virginia game, might have affected his catching. Maybe J. Quick knows, but just wasn't telling. Anyone have his personal cell #?
@duckified I think Lyerla will be fine. He'll have extra motivation after Mundt's big day. Having all these weapons really creates possibilities for the offense. If Scott Frost continues to game plan and call plays the way he did against Tennessee, it is going to be an amazing year.
@Dale Newton @zduckfan Yeah, but none of those guys made me jump up off the couch and cheer, Dale. Not like Mundt on Saturday. I think it's because we all knew he's a freshman and Saturday wasn't supposed to happen for him, not against Tennessee, and surely not when he's playing behind Colt Freaking Lyerla.
He played so well, it feels like one of those "who did Babe Ruth replace" questions. He was a hero, for a day. It's a day I hope we see again.
@zduckfan @Dale Newton The most famous replacement story in sports was Wally Pipp, who played first base for the Yankees before Lou Gehrig. He came to the ballpark with a bad headache one day and asked for a day off. Gehrig played the next 2,130 games. Pipp got traded to the Reds, played three more seasons and went on to be one of the first writers for Sports Illustrated.
Ruth was a baseball original with a far-more flamboyant off-field personality than Johnny Manziel. He started out as a pitcher, setting a World Series record with 29 2/3 scoreless innings, which stood until the Yankee's Whitey Ford broke it in the '50s.
When he was 40 and washed up the Yankees traded the Bambino to the Boston Braves. He hit dismally that spring, his skills eroded by poor conditioning and fast living, but on May 25th, he went 4-for-4 with three home runs against Pittsburgh. He played a week longer, batting just .181 in his final season.
Ruth got cancer in 1946, one of the first patients to receive chemotherapy and radiation treatments. He died in August of 1948. They took his casket to Yankee Stadium. Over 77,000 people came to pay tribute.
The funeral was held on a miserably hot day in August, and several Yankee ballplayers and former teammates were pallbearers. The legend is that one of them, sweating profusely, whispered to one of the others,"I'd give anything for a beer right now." The second teammate replied, "So would the Babe."
Johnny Mundt's first day was like that, the beginning of a legend. If if he were never to play another down, the story of a true freshman, replacing an All-America candidate and probable first round draft pick, going on to have a big day and spark the team with 121 receiving yards and two touchdowns, is an irresistible magnet for retelling and embellishing. After last Saturday, the Ducks have a Johnny Football of their own.