- Brandon P. Oliver, Reporter, DuckNation
From the Wilcox family (Dave, Josh and Justin) to Matt Smith to Kellen Clemens, Oregon fans have always appreciated the small-town kids who bring a strong work ethic and a sense of humility to the program. The next in line to be a fan favorite is recent Oregon commit John Mundt. The 6-foot-5, 235-pound tight end is listed as being from Modesto, Calif., a town that most on the West Coast are well aware of. In reality, Mundt hails from a tiny suburb of Modesto called Hughson, a town of just over 6,000 people.
"I just say Modesto now because I can't tell you how many times I had to explain to people that I wasn't from Texas," Mundt said. "I grew up here as a big fish in a small pond and it was a huge adjustment for me when I went to Modesto Central Catholic for high school."
Mundt played baseball growing up. But when he was in the fourth grade he saw the local third graders suited up in pads and uniforms and asked himself why he wasn't playing football with them. Also named John, Mundt's father played football at Fresno State but never pressed football on his three sons. Once his oldest son decided he wanted to follow in his father's footsteps, 'Johnny' decided he wanted to be just like his dad.
"I am probably the only kid in history to play running back while wearing the No. 61. That was my dad's number in college and I wanted to be just like him," Mundt said.
Once he reached the eighth grade, Mundt sat down with his parents to discuss his future. Academics and hard work are big in the Mundt family and together they decided that making the drive to Central Catholic every day would be worth it in the long run. The only problem was that Mundt went from being the big fish in Hughson to just another kid at a big high school. That all changed the moment he strapped on the Central Catholic jersey and became the starting tight end on the junior varsity as a freshman before being moved up to the varsity for the playoffs.
"That was when I think I really understood that I could be a big fish in a big pond as well,” Mundt said. “I knew nothing was going to be handed to me and so I went to work. I hit the weight room for the first time in my life and grew both physically and mentally by challenging myself every day."
The three-sport star (Mundt also plays basketball and baseball) has always had an exemplary work ethic. His parents own a walnut processing plant in one of the most prominent agricultural regions in the world, teaching Mundt early on that you have to work for what you want and even then, you are not assured of anything.
"My parents paid me minimum wage to do whatever I could around the warehouse and in the orchards to help them out. I swept the warehouse, I took care of the trees and worked long hours in dead heat of the Central California summers. The only thing is they said they put all of the money into a bank account for me and I still haven't seen that money," Mundt said with a laugh.
While Mundt may not have the cash in hand, he learned something much more valuable.
"If it weren't for my parents, I wouldn't be able to attend Central Catholic and go to the camps I have been to,” Mundt said. “Now I have a scholarship offer to my dream school and I will be able to go play college football and get a free education from a great school like Oregon."
Mundt’s upbringing has him prepared for being another link in the chain. Unlike many recruits, he embraces the idea. In fact, he wouldn't have it any other way.
"Oregon has a great history at tight end and has some incredible talent there right now,” Mundt said. “I know that I'm going to be at the bottom of the totem pole the minute I arrive in Eugene. I actually like it that way. Nothing is given to you in this world. You have to earn it.”
"I went to the bottom of the totem pole once before. I learned a lot about myself and grew up a lot while making the transition. Going from a high school in Modesto to the Pac-12 champions is a bigger jump than Hughson to Central Catholic was, but that just makes me excited about how hard I am going to have to work to accomplish what I want."
9hChantel Jennings and Ted Miller
2dChantel Jennings and Ted Miller