From Adversity to Maturity: Jimmay Mundine

Passing down traditions to the next generation of family members is common, especially when it comes to football in Texas. University of Kansas junior tight end Jimmay Mundine and his brother, Nick, grew up listening to stories of how “great” their father, Delton, was as a player. Unfortunately, Delton never got the chance to see that tradition completely fulfilled with his youngest son.
In April of Mundine’s first year on campus at Kansas, his father tragically passed away before ever seeing him play a collegiate down. 
Growing up in the small city of Denison, Texas, Delton had instilled in his sons the game of football. Mundine grew up idolizing his oldest brother, Nick, who played in and lost the state championship game three times during his high school career.
Mundine, a smash-mouth tight end with a pair of gifted hands known for making circus catches, was motivated to bring that state championship pride back to Denison. He played like a mad man for Denison High School, earning all-state honorable mention honors as a tight end as he recorded over 1,000 yards and 17 touchdowns as a senior. Mundine never brought that championship home, but he did receive a multitude of honors and accumulated numerous Division I offers. In late 2009, he signed a letter of intent to play for then coach, Turner Gill, and the Kansas Jayhawks. 
Mundine knew that his commitment to Kansas was just another step in his path to manhood. He figured that he would come in and contribute right away to a Kansas team coming off an impressive Orange Bowl victory against Virginia Tech, but this idea was short-lived as he quickly realized that he was no longer the biggest, most intimidating guy on the field. He displayed flashes of brilliance, but ultimately, the KU coaching staff decided to redshirt the freshman tight end.
The news was discouraging at the time, but Mundine knew he needed to improve his strength, as well as mature as a player. His redshirt season did not go unnoticed as Mundine was twice tapped Offensive Compete Team Player of the Week, going against players every day such as Chris Harris and Bradley McDougald, who both have gone on to play in the National Football League. Meanwhile, off the field, Mundine and his girlfriend, Hayley Trotter, were expecting the birth of their first daughter during the summer. Unfortunately, that was not the only major challenge the Jayhawk had to endure that season.
Mundine was asleep at the Jayhawker Towers and woke up around 7 a.m., to a call he had just missed. The caller was Gill. Mundine called back, but failed to reach his coach. A few minutes later, Mundine received a call from another member of the Kansas football staff who explained that the head coach needed to meet with him, immediately. He did not know that this meeting carried more weight than he could have ever imagined. As soon as he arrived at the Anderson Family Football Complex, Mundine was informed that his father, Delton, had passed away the night before.
Mundine was blindsided by the sudden loss of his biggest role model. The coaching staff consoled him, but Mundine is a strong soul. He knew there would be time to grieve, but his top priority was to get home and be with his family. Within four hours of receiving the news, Mundine had boarded a flight and was back in his hometown where over 60 family members gathered to mourn the loss of his beloved father.
Mundine is not an overly-emotional guy and he tried to stomach the situation as best as he could. His father was an avid supporter of the Jayhawks and made frequent trips to Lawrence with Mundine’s mother, Claudia. However, due to his son’s redshirt season, Delton never got to watch his son play collegiate football.
Delton’s passing in April came only two months prior to the birth of Mundine’s daughter, Riley.  Mundine knew what kind of father he had growing up and he understood that was the kind of man he needed to become for his daughter. He looked to his mother for guidance during this time, and she instructed him that life doesn’t stop because you are sad; life goes on and that he needed to fight through it. Mundine took on a more mature outlook on life, and immediately began to implement the changes in his daily life.
“Life is so unexpected; people can be taken away from you in an instant,” said Mundine, who is majoring in communications. “I don’t want to say that my father’s passing made me work harder, but in a sense, that is exactly what happened. I stopped doing the bare minimum and started pushing myself on a daily basis in the classroom, the weight room and on the field. It was hard to want to go lift weights and carry on when your dad just passed away, but my mother’s words helped me stay motivated.”
After an intensified offseason, Mundine was set to begin his redshirt freshman campaign. The Jayhawk coaching staff envisioned using him as more of a receiving threat and was ready to throw him into the mix. During fall camp, the tight end severely sprained his ankle, which sidelined him for an extended period of time.
“When I came back, I wasn’t getting the repetitions and opportunities that I was getting during the spring and I just really struggled to regain the confidence I had,” said Mundine, who caught seven passes for 86 yards and a score during the 2011 season.
After a disappointing redshirt freshman season in which the team finished with an overall record of 2-10, the Jayhawks were looking to rebound under new head coach, Charlie Weis. As a sophomore, Mundine sought to be the answer for a team with many question marks.
Unfortunately, the Jayhawks again struggled in 2012 as they posted a 1-11 record in Weis’ first season. Mundine, who is not one to shy away from accepting responsibility, admitted he played selfishly and with a personal chip on his shoulder last fall.
“I was expected to do a lot, but I didn’t do anything at all,” said Mundine, who hauled in 14 passes for 183 yards and two touchdowns in 2012. “In the spring, I was already classified as a starter. I expected way more out of myself during the season and I didn’t make plays. I was really down on myself, and the team was struggling. I was out to prove that I belonged at Kansas and in the Big 12, instead of focusing on helping my team achieve victories.”
With the 2013 season underway, Mundine has embraced his role as a veteran leader on the team and feels primed for a breakout season.
“That is one of my main focuses this year, being a team player and not really caring if I get the ball at all,” said Mundine, who earned honorable mention All-Big 12 honors from the Associated Press in 2012. “I understand the route concepts so much better now, and I know if someone is guarding me, then that means someone else is open. When I get others open, ultimately, that gets me open later on and I never understood that until now.”
Mundine is now relishing the opportunity to become a pillar of strength for his teammates and help re-brand a passing attack that was sorely lacking for the Jayhawks in 2012.
“I remember coming in as a freshman and looking up to the upperclassmen for help and guidance,” said Mundine. “I am a team leader now, as a lot of the players look to me to set an example for them. I am proving to myself that I am up for the challenge.
“I have never been this confident in my routes, I like where my mind and body are, and I am ready to become a consistent contributor. People don’t expect a lot from us, but I think we are definitely going to surprise a lot of people. I wrote my personal goals down for the upcoming season and I plan to reach every single one of them.”
Mundine is a humbled young man who possesses tremendous talent at a position vital to the Jayhawks’ success. The projected starting tight end is ready to help lead a Kansas team determined to prove it can compete in the land of Big 12 giants.
Having successfully maneuvered the loss of his father and birth of his daughter off the field, Mundine is ready to help push the Jayhawks to a winning record on the field. The Jayhawks have revamped their passing attack with the addition of BYU transfer quarterback, Jake Heaps, as well as Oklahoma transfer wide receiver, Justin McCay. Mundine figures to play right into that mix and help to create some space for the spectacular Jayhawk running game.
Mundine has seemingly been on a roller coaster ride of emotions since becoming a Jayhawk. The loss of his father helped him realize that tomorrow is never guaranteed. The birth of his daughter shortly thereafter made him hungrier than ever to provide for his family. Injuries and personal glory never allowed him to reach his potential in 2012. Mundine has set his sights on making the 2013 Kansas football season is his year of redemption.