Catching-up with Johnny Mundt and other Ducks in the NFL
In 2016, former Oregon tight end Johnny Mundt was awarded the Dudley Randolph Clarke Memorial Award for the team’s most improved player. Now, recently signed to the Los Angeles Rams’ practice squad, Mundt looks to improve even more and eventually make the 53-man roster – again.
During the first week of September, Mundt made the Rams’ 53-man roster. But a late trade for Washington Redskins’ tight end Derek Carrier forced the he Rams to waive Mundt the very next day.
Mundt’s path to the practice squad has not been an easy one. When he attended the Rams’ rookie minicamp in May, he broke his ankle on the first day. From there, he thought his dreams of playing in the NFL might be over before they began.
“It was extremely hard,” Mundt said. “When it initially happened, I didn’t even know what to think. I was afraid that they were going to release me then and there.”
Mundt was able to do physical therapy with the Rams’ trainers, as well as learn the offense and go to team meetings during Organized Team Activities, also known as OTAs. That, he said, contributed to his successful return. Mundt was cleared to play in the final preseason game of the year and made the game count, scoring an 18-yard touchdown.
The NFL is home to the top 1,696 football players in the world and only 1.5 percent of college athletes make it to the NFL. For now, Mundt must prove himself to make that roster spot, but Mundt believes he’s just getting started.
“I’m fired up,” Mundt said. “I get to go against the first defense. So if I’m making plays on the practice squad all the coaches are seeing it, I’m putting good stuff on film. I’m still developing as a tight end, I feel like I have my best football ahead of me.”
Other Ducks in the mix:
Pharaoh Brown is another former Oregon tight end who attended the Raiders’ training camp. After a devastating injury against Utah in November 2014, he redshirted the 2015 season and returned last year for a successful end to his college career. He did not survive the final Oakland roster cuts and was released, later signed to the practice squad.
Marcus Mariota continues to improve with the Tennessee Titans after an impressive 9-7 record last year. The addition of Corey Davis (drafted No. 5 overall in 2017) and Eric Decker (signed to a one-year deal in May) will offer him new targets downfield. That, accompanied with DeMarco Murray and Derrick Henry in the backfield, offers potential for this rising offense.
Hroniss Grasu is listed as the back-up center for the Chicago Bears. Grasu seemingly captured the starting role during training camp last year, but tore his ACL in August 2016. Since then, Grasu has had to go through physical therapy and fight for a starting role. While he was rehabilitating, Cody Whitehair impressed the coaches and has since claimed that top position. Grasu reunited with Mariota, his former teammate, on August 28, in the Chicago Bears’ preseason game against the Titans.
Despite drafting Stanford star Christian McCaffrey No. 8 overall in the 2017 NFL Draft, Jonathan Stewart continues to be the starting running back for the Carolina Panthers. In the first game of the regular season, Stewart rushed for 65 yards on 18 attempts, but McCaffrey wasn’t far behind with 47 yards on 13 attempts. McCaffrey, a dual-threat in college, also had 38 yards on five receptions, compared to Stewart’s 17 yards on 2 receptions.
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