As the first week of training camp comes to a close it’s the time when most young players fighting to make the team take the time to evaluate their standing.
The players that were drafted late or not drafted at all have little to no shot of making the team. It’s the cold hard truth that stares them in the face each and every day they spend at Latrobe.
Every year there always seems to be that guy that few mention or think of. That player that despite the dozens of guys that find a pink slip in their locker he finds a way to stay alive when the dust settles. There is always that guy.
This season don’t be surprised if that guy is Ryan Mundy.
The Steelers defensive backfield has had a bit of a shake up over the off-season. Bryant McFadden left to join Ken Whisenhunt in Arizona, and of course the silence is almost deafening now that Safety Anthony Smith has taken his all talk and no walk show to the Green Bay Packers.
Now Mr. Opportunity is knocking loudly on the same door Smith used to exit, and Mundy has more than a chance to open it.
Mundy was a considered a steal for the Steelers in the sixth round of the 2008 draft. During the first preseason game against the Eagles last summer he suffered a high ankle sprain. His injury held him out for the rest of the preseason, and the Steelers had to cut him during the final cuts of training camp.
Once his ankle healed Mundy was re-signed to the practice squad. After the season he signed a new contract with the team in February.
Mundy is a high pedigree player with local roots. He grew up in nearby Woodland Hills where he set numerous records while earning All-American prep honors, and playing in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl where he made two interceptions as a senior.
Mundy decided to go to Michigan where he played in 11 games as a true freshman. The coaching staff had high hopes for him as a sophomore and he went on to start in 12 games. The following season an injury forced him to take a medical redshirt and he went on to see little playing time the following season.
After earning his degree in sports management during his redshirt season Mundy decided to transfer to WVU in order to begin work on his Master’s Degree in sports administration. Because Michigan did not offer the degree he wanted, NCAA rules allowed him to transfer without losing his last year of eligibility.
His only season at West Virginia proved to be his best yet. He beat out Senior Ridwan Malik for the starting free safety position during the preseason and went on to finish the year with 45 tackles, three interceptions and two fumble recoveries. Earning him Scholar Athlete Honors and the Coaches Contribution Award.
The emergence of Ryan Clark last season as an intimidating force across the middle was overshadowed only by his inability to stay healthy. Clark is far from shy when it comes to throwing his entire body into a hit on receivers that dare cross the middle. The fact that he is about to turn 30 in October is starting to show by the fact that he often hurt himself in the process.
Known as a great open-field tackler with a nose for the football Mundy fits the make of the smart, athletic Safeties the Steelers are famous for. If he is able to stay healthy himself this summer, there is a great chance that he will see quite a bit of playing time as the bumps and bruises Clark is prone to getting start cropping up.
“I’m going to go out there and play hard and try to be mistake free, and I feel like if I do that then things will take care of themselves,” Mundy said after practice this week.
If he is able to do just that he will likely beat out the competition he has to make the roster.
Derrick Richardson was signed as a rookie free agent out of New Mexico State in April. He stared the past three seasons for the Aggies, the last of which he led the nation in tackles per game as a senior. While he has some upside the transition thus far at camp has been a slow one for Richardson.
With Richardson being the only competition for the open backup Free Safety position this summer it definitely gives the edge to Mundy. With a few weeks of camp under his belt last season and his experience on the practice squad, Mundy comes into camp with an understanding of the team and what it takes to be in the NFL.
Whether his recent past was fate or just coincidence that lead to him being taken by the Steelers, Mundy is poised to take advantage of his good fortune of having a chance to play in his hometown.
If he pans out to be what his high school and college coaches have always said he is, it could be the Steelers who are thanking their lucky stars in years to come.