War Daddy: Henry Mondeaux sets the tone for Oregon’s present and future
You won’t find a definition for the term “war daddy” in a regular dictionary. Instead, you’d have to go to Urban Dictionary, an online crowdsourced lexicon of slang, where you’d find that it means: “A beastly defensive lineman that eats up blockers and spits them out for dinner.”
You also might find “badass” or “Henry Mondeaux,” at least if Oregon head coach Willie Taggart wrote the definitions.
Taggart went to that term last week when asked about what he’s seen out of Mondeaux, a senior defensive lineman and the defensive team captain, this year.
“Henry has been a war daddy,” he said. “That guy has been working his butt off all year long, doing everything we ask him to do, not taking a play off.”
When asked to elaborate what that term means, Taggart simply replied “Badass.”
By all accounts, it’s an accurate description for Mondeaux. The senior from Portland, Oregon hasn’t missed a game in his collegiate career, despite playing one of the most physical positions, while also dealing with Type 1 diabetes. He’s been a staple in Oregon’s defense for the past four years: He’s gone from being an eager newcomer to a seasoned veteran leader who’s played a key role in Oregon’s defensive turnaround this season.
Taggart isn’t sure where he first heard the term “war daddy.” He thinks maybe it was back at Western Kentucky or one of his other coaching stops in his career. He isn’t completely sure, but he said that it was something that just stuck with him. He called Royce Freeman a “war daddy” after Freeman’s four-touchdown performance against Arizona on Saturday.
At his press conference on Monday this week, Taggart offered a more eloquent definition for the term.
“It’s not hard to describe: You see those guys that go all out all the time, leave everything on the field and try to get after the guy in front of them every time he has an opportunity to do that,” Taggart said. “A guy that plays through pain and does everything he can to help this football team — a guy who is totally committed to this football team and helping it.”
Mondeaux will take that persona and intensity into the home stretch of Oregon’s season and his career — a stretch Mondeaux is looking to enjoy. As much as he wants to ignore it, he said it’s been tough facing that inevitable reality.
“You know, I’m trying to take it one day at a time, but it’s starting to come up on me that I only have two games in Autzen,” Mondeaux said ahead of the Ducks’ clash with Arizona. “So I’m just trying to take it every day and enjoy myself as much as I can.”
Mondeaux arrived in Eugene as part of Oregon’s 2014 recruiting class and was already a decorated and well-known athlete throughout the state. He excelled in basketball, football and track and field in his prep tenure at Jesuit High School. But at 6-foot-4, 250-pounds, Mondeaux gravitated toward football more than anything else. He accumulated all-state honors his junior and senior years, and in two of the three years he started on both sides of the ball for one of the premier programs in the state.
While the accomplishments were incredible, the fact that Mondeaux was dealing with Type 1 diabetes made them all the more impressive. He was diagnosed his freshman year of high school and began to monitor his blood sugar levels daily. But Mondeaux didn’t let the disease slow him down. All the accolades he achieved in high school came after his diagnosis.
To this day, Mondeaux relies on his diabetes as a source of motivation. He said he plays with other, less fortunate people in mind. He wants to be an inspiration for those who are dealing with similar issues and show them that they too can accomplish whatever they want in life, despite the odds.
“That’s what I try and tell myself before every game and every play,” Mondeaux said. “I just try and think about doing it for them.”
With that mindset, Mondeaux is thriving. He burst onto the scene as a freshman and has appeared in every Oregon game since — a feat stunning for anyone, but especially for a type 1 diabetic. He works with Oregon’s trainers closely, which could explain his sustainability. Or maybe it was all the extra precautions he took to maintain his blood sugar levels. Even he’s not entirely sure the source of his durability.
“I think just being lucky. I really don’t know,” he said. “I think a lot it’s luck just because this sport is so unpredictable.”
Mondeaux’s work ethic and fixture in Oregon’s everyday rotations for the past three years made him an easy candidate for a captain role entering this season. Oregon’s new coaching staff was searching for a player who commanded the respect of his peers. Mondeaux fit the bill and his teammates voted him the defensive team captain at the end of fall camp.
“The good thing about that, when the team picks, they know the guys better than all of us,” Taggart said back in late August. “So they know who are the right guys and who they want to lead this team.”
While quiet by nature, Mondeaux is excelling as a leader this season. He leads by example but gets vocal if he needs to. Most importantly, when he talks, his teammates listen.
“He commands the room,” defensive line coach Joe Salave’a said.
“We look to Henry for guidance,” linebacker La’Mar Winston said. “A lot of us do. He’s always there. He’s been here before. He’s been in these positions before. He’s played a lot of ball.”
Oregon’s coaches are thrilled with Mondeaux’s performance this season. It’s the only year they’ll get to coach him, but they say he’s been everything they want in a player. They want to use him as a metaphor for what they hope to build at Oregon and a blueprint for how they want their players to carry themselves.
“We just want to make sure that we get to utilize his presence and what he brings to the table for the younger guys who are coming in the fold now, and the brand of football that we’re continuing to mold here at Oregon,” Salave’a said.
Taggart echoed that praise.
“He’s what a senior is supposed to be,” he said.
Coaches also credit him and his leadership for helping turn around Oregon’s defense this year. He fit seamlessly into defensive coordinator Jim Leavitt’s 3-4 scheme. He currently ranks third on the team in sacks (5), fifth in tackles for loss (5.5) and his 40 total tackles this season are a career-high. Oregon’s rushing defense now ranks 29th in the country after it held Arizona, a top-ten rushing offense, to 171 yards on the ground.
Oregon State is next in what will be Mondeaux’s fourth and final Civil War. After that, Oregon will wait for its bowl game destination a year after missing out on postseason play for the first time in over a decade.
Oregon will miss Mondeaux’s presence after this season. Replacing experience and leadership is never simple, but at least now Oregon players have a blueprint for how they too can become a “war daddy.”
Follow Gus Morris on Twitter @JustGusMorris