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Johnny Mundt the kind of story that makes us love sports

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.