The Wolverine

December 2017

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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DECEMBER 2017 THE WOLVERINE 69 BY JOHN BORTON R yan Mundy performed on Mich- igan's Big Ten championship squads in 2003 and 2004, then ago- nized through the near miss in 2006. Then he disappeared off the Michi- gan radar. Mundy assures he's alive, well and still cherishing the relationships he developed in Ann Arbor. An eight- year NFL career behind him, he's diving headfirst into the business world, insisting there was always more to him than football. The product of Woodland Hills High in Wilkins Township, Pa., just east of Pittsburgh, didn't want to stay near home for his college experience. He wanted to get away, and not for a camping trip. "I'm a city guy, and Penn State is nothing but rolling hills," Mundy mentioned. "That wasn't going to work for me." He wound up following his former quarterback, Steve Breaston, to Mich- igan. That move started him down a path eventually taking him to the brink of two national championship opportunities and a pair of Super Bowls. Mundy recalled the first steps to that journey as a Michigan freshman in 2003. "I was really excited to be part of the team and work with guys like Marlin Jackson, get reunited with Steve and meet guys like Chris Perry," he said. "It was super excit- ing." It got more so as the season went along. Following a three-point slip- up at Iowa, the Wolverines rolled to six straight wins — including an his- toric one in the regular-season finale. "We beat Ohio State at the end of the year, in the 100th game of the series," recalled Mundy, who saw the field on special teams. "That was definitely a great moment to cap off my freshman year." Bigger opportunities loomed just over the horizon. Mundy eyed a starting spot in 2004, and prepared assiduously for spring practice that year. "I was very focused on it, the entire offseason," he said. "In spring ball, I made it a point to establish my- self and my presence. I knew there was an opportunity for me to be the starter, but it wasn't going to just be given to me. "I went out there in spring ball and just annihilated everybody. No pris- oners. And it worked out. I was very excited to enter into that role." In fact, one incident proved a bit unnerving, even while Mundy staked his claim in a violent sport. "On Saturdays, we scrimmage live," he pointed out. "There was a ball thrown over the middle, and it was man coverage, so I was the sin- gle-high safety. The quarterback was staring the receiver down and the cornerback had really good coverage. "I got a great break, and I annihi- lated the receiver and the cornerback. Back then, we didn't really know much about concussions. Thinking back on it, those two were definitely concussed, because they were on the ground for quite some time." They turned out okay, and Mundy drew the type of notice that comes with big collisions. "That hit kind of solidified my presence throughout spring ball and moving forward," he said. Mundy did lock down a spot, join- ing a secondary with veterans Ernest Shazor and Marlin Jackson, along with up-and-coming cornerback Leon Hall. The Wolverines opened the 2004 season with Miami (Ohio), and its new starting safety made an immediate impact. Mundy picked off a pass, returning it 38 yards, helping him calm the jit- ters that go hand-in-hand with start- ing in front of 100,000-plus. "First game, young guy, nervous as hell, and then going out there and breaking the ice, getting an inter- ception and helping the team win," Mundy mused. "That was definitely my memorable moment." He recalled learning throughout the year from his older teammates while the Wolverines steamed to- ward a Big Ten title. They earned rings despite a loss at Ohio State, then dropped a memorable shootout with Vince Young and Texas in the Rose Bowl, 38-37. "That was a tough game," Mundy recalled. "Going into it, we were ex- tremely focused on [running back] Cedric Benson. He got knocked out of the game early. "We were definitely aware of Vince Young. We'd seen him on tape — a tall, rangy, athletic guy who could make people miss and make big plays. But the Rose Bowl was his coming-out party. "He had four rushing touchdowns that game and elevated himself to a whole new stratosphere." Mundy experienced a different level of his own in the following fall camp — a much tougher one. He injured his brachial plexus (nerves extending from the spinal cord) dur- ing a routine tackling drill. "I lost complete feeling, strength and sensation in my left arm," he recalled. "It was pretty devastating. "I've had stingers before. I think most football players have at some point. But this was, by far, a lot more severe."   WHERE ARE THEY NOW? Ryan Mundy Survived And Thrived In Football And Beyond Mundy, who finished his college career at West Virginia before being a sixth-round pick in the NFL Draft, was a rookie on the Pittsburgh Steelers squad that won Super Bowl XLIII. PHOTO COURTESY RYAN MUNDY

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