By Rob Moseley
Earlier this week, Oregon freshman Johnny Mundt decided to deactivate his Twitter account.
The social media platform has increasingly become a go-to means of communication for his generation. Mundt, a true freshman tight end who played in the Ducks’ first two games of the season, decided it wasn’t for him.
“I don’t have a whole lot to say, and I figured I was just wasting time on it,” Mundt said. “I figured I would do more productive things.”
What sorts of things did he have in mind? Oregon fans got the answer Saturday afternoon in Autzen Stadium, when Mundt started in place of junior Colt Lyerla and was the breakout star of the Ducks’ 59-14 win over visiting Tennessee.
Mundt made his first career reception on Oregon’s second play from scrimmage, and scored his first touchdown later in the quarter, giving the Ducks a 10-7 lead they’d never surrender. He finished with five receptions for 121 and two scores, giving Mundt one more reception than Lyerla has had in a single game, and the first 100-yard day by a UO tight end since another No. 83, Ed Dickson, in 2009.
“He was awesome, to say the least,” UO quarterback Marcus Mariota said. “He was incredible.”
Mundt said he found out Friday he’d be filling in for Lyerla, who was battling illness earlier this week and missed the game due to “circumstances,” according to UO coach Mark Helfrich.
After Friday’s practice, Mundt was asked whether he was nervous about making his first start.
“Yeah,” he said. “But I don’t want to admit it.”
Mundt said Saturday the nerves went away overnight.
“I knew my assignments, I knew what I was doing, I was confident and I just had to execute,” Mundt said. “… If I got my shot, I was going to run my route and get open. If I got the ball, do what I can when I get it.”
Come Saturday, he sure didn’t look the part of a nervous freshman.
“You’d expect him to be wide-eyed, but he was ready to go,” Mariota said. “He was calm and collected, and he looked like he just had a lot of fun.”
After Lyerla dropped three passes at Virginia last week, Mundt was a picture of consistency. He was as sure-handed as expected, based on practices so far this fall. But he also showed off a burst of athleticism, finding the open field for a 57-yard gain on the final play of the first quarter.
About the only role of Lyerla’s that Mundt didn’t fill was that of a running back. Otherwise, he excelled as a pass receiver and held up well blocking the Volunteers’ athletic defensive ends.
“It’s just a great example of, guys that practice hard, play hard, do the right things, do the little things right, play their tails off – they have a chance to be successful,” UO tight ends coach Tom Osborne said. “You just don’t think it’s going to be a guy that’s never even entered his first class (at the university); I mean, I’m not sure Johnny’s even shaved yet.”
Osborne said he knew he had something special in Mundt during the recruiting process. Coaches and teachers at Central Catholic High in Modesto, Calif., raved about Mundt’s character, and said it was a product of his upbringing. Osborne called John and Catherine Mundt “two of the greatest parents maybe in the history of the world.”
“I’m really, really happy for him,” Helfrich said. “He’s just one of those guys you can’t help but like.”
After the game Saturday, UO players chanted “Johnny! Johnny! Johnny!” when Mundt entered the locker room. He was called to the front to lead the singing of the fight song; teammates wanted a speech, but Mundt simply said, “One, two, three …” to cue the start of “Mighty Oregon.”
Mundt said he was embarrassed by the attention, from teammates and later media. Lyerla even took the time to Tweet: “the team killed it #mundt4heisman.”
“I wasn’t expecting this,” Mundt said somewhat sheepishly. “But I’m definitely happy it happened. I just had a great time out there.”